Transportation and Communications Minister Wang Kwo-tsai visited Hualien's Daqingshui Tunnel to oversee its repair work. Meanwhile, ferry services have also been arranged before the traffic on land can resume as normal.
Construction workers are working around the clock to clear boulders and debris from Dachingshui Tunnel to make sure the tunnel can reopen to traffic by 5 p.m. on the 15th. Transportation and Communications Minister Wang Kwo-tsai visited the tunnel on the 13th to inspect progress and give Hualien and Taitung residents a progress report.
Wang Kwo-tsai, Minister, Ministry of Transportation and Communications: “The section between Heren and Chongde has long been a cause for concern. When we were doing safety assessments for the Suhua Highway, we felt the slopes on both sides weren't very stable. So, they proposed many solutions for discussion. The direction we are going in is a 9.7-kilometer tunnel.”
With the tunnel out of commission, the ministry has arranged for passenger ferries and one military vessel to take people and vehicles to the Port of Suao. People began queuing up the night before. Officials allowed passengers to start boarding at 9 a.m. and the ferry left the port at 12 p.m. The trip takes around three hours.
Mr. Wu, Boat Passenger: “I guess it's a decent backup plan. Otherwise, there's only the Cross-island Highway and Nanhui Road.”
Boat Passenger: “I drove here last night to make a delivery. I got on the boat this morning. (Is this the first time this has happened to you?) Yes. (How do you feel?) It's a special situation.”
According to the Port of Hualien, the Hefu Ferry departed with 306 passengers and 32 vehicles on board. The Taipei Express Ferry departed with no passengers and 130 vehicles, while Kaixuan No. 8 departed with 26 passengers and no vehicles. The military vessel dispatched to the port has not yet arrived. There will be a free shuttle service until the tunnel reopens on the 15th.
Wang Kwo-tsai, Minister, Ministry of Transportation and Communications: “The Suhua Highway is basically Taitung and Hualien's one and only access road, so in our so-called response plan in the past we held similar drills. Because this incident occurred without warning, we very quickly decided to allow these boats to stay where they are.”
Taiwan Railways, meanwhile, added a 2 p.m. cargo train to its schedule to transport produce. Travel agents say if the tunnel can't reopen by the 15th, it will have a disastrous effect on holiday travel.