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Taiwan To Restrict Construction

October 5, 1999

TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) _ Taiwan plans to ban or restrict construction along a 48-mile fault line where last month’s devastating earthquake hit, officials said today.

The Sept. 21 quake affected a wide area in central Taiwan, but the 12 towns and five resort areas on the fault suffered the most severe damage.

Hundreds were killed as houses and apartment buildings collapsed, with ground ripping open or buckling up to form hills.

Officials said authorities have proposed to ban construction within 50 yards on either side of the fault line, and turn the stretch into public parks. Another 50 yards beyond that, buildings may be restricted to two stories, said Liu Ching-nan, a deputy director of the Construction and Planning Administration.

People whose houses were located on the fault may be reassigned farm land for rebuilding, Liu said.

A few destroyed buildings, including an elementary school in central Wufeng city, may be retained and rebuilt as museums to mark the killer quake, he said.

There were fears if the Earth’s giant plates start shifting again in the area, rebuilt homes could be demolished like the old ones were.

A reconstruction ban is controversial. Some experts argue next time a quake hits in the same area, the rupture in the ground could occur anywhere within hundreds of yards around the fault.

The quake, Taiwan’s worst in decades, killed at least 2,274 people and injured more than 8,300. More than 14,000 housing units were destroyed or badly damaged in the quake.

With Typhoon Dan due to pass just south of Taiwan late Wednesday, officials warned today that heavy rains could inundate the camps housing earthquake victims and set off landslides that could further damage housing.

Meanwhile, newspapers reported today that during the quake a glitzy karaoke hall in Taipei locked in terrified patrons to prevent them from fleeing until they had paid their bills.

Employees of the Cashbox karaoke hall tried to shut customers into their booths and watched exits to prevent them from leaving after the quake struck and electricity was cut off, the reports said, quoting a customer who gave only her surname, Ling.

Ling, who threatened to take legal action, said staff ordered her and two friends to stay inside their cubicle as aftershocks continued to shake the building, and repeatedly shut the door after Ling opened it.

With one of the women vomiting from the constant rocking, they pushed their way out of the room only to find the hall clogged with anxious customers trying to settle their bills so they could leave, Ling said, quoted by the newspapers.

Lee Hao-yin, a spokesman for the chain, apologized to customers and said staff untrained in managing emergency situations had badly handled the incident.

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