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Taiwan Quake Probe Promised

October 9, 1999

TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) _ Nearly 150 contractors and architects have been detained and their passports have been confiscated or their assets frozen following Taiwan’s devastating earthquake, President Lee Teng-hui said today.

Lee promised to keep up the investigation of shoddy construction when he met with hundreds of quake victims who camped outside his office demanding government compensation for their losses.

Unfurling banners emblazoned with the words ``Killer Contractors″ and ``Rebuild our Homes,″ about 300 people from central Taiwan staged the sit-in to show Lee his suggestions so far weren’t specific enough.

The protesters, some with their children, wanted to camp outside the office overnight, but hundreds of police officers formed a human wall to prevent them from setting up tents.

Shoddy construction during Taiwan’s building boom is thought to have contributed to the Sept. 21 quake’s death toll, which the government updated today to 2,295. Many of the victims died under the rubble of collapsed buildings. About 38,000 housing units collapsed or were severely damaged.

Lee said the government has detained or confiscated the passports of 82 contractors, architects and surveyors on charges of involuntary homicide or endangering public security, and the assets of 67 more people were frozen.

Many people told Lee that while their homes appeared only slightly damaged, they are living in tents because they fear another aftershock. Others wanted him to promise that the government will take over their mortgages and track down contractors who fled abroad.

The government has refused to take over an estimated $310 million in mortgages.

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