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July 28, 2017

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Gov't told to overhaul 'inefficient' search and rescue system

Private sector rescue teams yesterday blasted the National Search and Rescue Command Center's (NSRCC) poor judgment and coordination concerning the crash of the Dapeng Airlines BN-2 plane that went down in Hualien County.

Prosecutors and government agencies have started a thorough investigation into the cause of the incident. The bodies of the three aboard the plane — pilot, co-pilot and aerial photographer — were all found yesterday.

But Chen Ming-hua, the leader of a search and rescue association in Kaohsiung, said the NSRCC's inefficiency had likely delayed the discovery and rescue of the three victims.

Chen said that his group had volunteered to join the search operation after the aircraft went missing on Aug. 30, but the offer was rejected.

He said that the problems evident in the search and rescue included a lack of coordination among the actions of various sectors, weak performance in gathering relevant information and misjudgment in narrowing down the search area where the plane crashed.

Those commanding the operation should be held responsible for failing to find and rescue the three victims in time, Chen said.

The rescue command center should not always use weather conditions as an excuse for failed missions, he added.

A rescue team member who personally took part in the search and rescue operations confirmed the lack of efficient coordination among four groups of people, namely team members of the special forces of the Ministry of National Defense, the special rescue team of the National Fire Department under the Ministry of the Interior, helicopters sent by the Taitung County Government and the local rescue team of Hualien, where the crashed plane and the three bodies were found.

The team member said that some rescue teams had drawn up plans to search at the possible crash site — an area near Sancha Mountain and Jiaming Lake which used to be the hunting ground of the Bunun aboriginal tribe. This search proposal, however, was denied, said a source.

Critics said there are now loopholes exposed in the nation's search and rescue operations for emergency incidents. One said it was like operating in the dark — wasting resources and exhausting rescue team members without results

Some observers have suggested that government agencies thoroughly review the failed mission and work together to overhaul and establish a more efficient and comprehensive mechanism for future search and rescue operations.

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