President pledges to meet firefighters' manpower demands

Taipei, Aug. 19 (CNA) President Ma Ying-jeou promised Tuesday to give full support to the nation's firefighters, who have complained about a lack of equipment and a shortage of manpower. Ma made the remarks at a ruling Kuomintang (KMT) meeting after some 100 firefighters petitioned the Ministry of the Interior Monday for government efforts to improve their working conditions. Six firefighters died in the Kaohsiung explosions caused by propylene leaks July 31 and another was injured Aug. 15 in a gas explosion in Ankang, suburban Taipei. The petitioners called on the government to give them better and more firefighting equipment and to increase personnel, among other demands, so that they can do their jobs better and more safely. Ma, who doubles as KMT chairman, said he had noted their calls and that he will do everything he can to meet their demands. He urged the fire and police authorities, as well as the Environmental Protection Administration, to come up with a "review report" in the wake of the public safety disaster in Kaohsiung. He pointed out that on-site judgements are very important, as can be seen from the Kaohsiung incident. For example, he said, it needs to be determined what kind of chemical or gas is leaking in order that effective steps can be taken to minimize damage. "That would call for good professional testing abilities of the environmental protection authorities," Ma said. Sources at the KMT meeting also quoted Ma as instructing government agencies to improve their cross-department and cross-level coordination so they can take timely measures to ensure public safety. (By Kelven Huang and S.C. Chang)