Taipei Gets Emergency Powers

Taiwan faced a plunging stock market and rationing of water and electricity Tuesday, one week after the island was shaken by a powerful earthquake that took more than 2,100 lives.

To cope with a host of problems, Taiwan's legislature Tuesday overwhelmingly approved an emergency decree that overrides existing laws for six months, allowing the government to commandeer vacant land and dispatch troops to keep law and order.

The Taiwan Power Company began daily 6½-hour power outages in eight northern counties and cities, including the capital, Taipei, according to the newspaper Taiwan News.

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Among the hardest hit were manufacturers of computer chips. The semiconductor makers' stocks took another plunge on Taiwan's stock exchange Tuesday, the second day of trading since the earthquake.

Blue chips fell 2.3 percent amid concerns that the high-tech companies that are the stars of Taiwanese industry will see big revenue losses as they scramble to reopen plants.
Meanwhile, the state-owned Taiwan Water Supply Corp. reported that water rationing would be enforced in the hardest-hit areas. The water provider said more than 400,000, or 36 percent, of homes in central Taiwan lacked reliable water supplies.

One reservoir and several major pipelines were damaged by the temblor, which left the heaviest damage in the island's mountainous central area.

Coming under fire for its poor response to the disaster, the government of President Lee Teng-hui on Saturday announced the emergency decree, which also empowers the government to issue relief bonds and severely punish people illegally profiting from the sale of basic goods on the black market.

The legislature, dominated by Lee's ruling Kuomintang Party, approved the executive order by a vote of 201 to two, with two abstentions. But some legislators had reservations.

Â"I believe this is not an emergency decree. It is a measure of expediency, actually a long-term measure that hinders the development of democracy,Â" a ruling party lawmaker, Chou Hsi-wei, said during a heated, four-hour debate.

Military officials, however, denied the state of emergency would interfere with Taiwan's 12-year-old democracy. Â"This is neither military rule nor martial law,Â" Defense Ministry spokesman Kong Min-ting said at a press conference.

Meanwhile, rescuers continued to work Tuesday despite dimming hopes of finding survivors.

Taiwan's Disaster Management Center said Tuesday that the earthquake and subsequent aftershocks left at least 2,101 people dead and 8,713 injured. It also reported that 141 people were still trapped and 12 were missing.

Rescuers said a lack of proper equipment and a central command system hindered efforts to find survivors.

Presidential spokesman Ting Yuan-chao allowed that rescue efforts Â"were a little disorganized,Â" but he accused the media of exaggerating the problem.

Â"We really must try harder the next time and learn from this,Â" he said.
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