ICRT Weekly Central Taiwan News Report, Sep 23–transcript

Free 10 km bus trips to end for non-Taichungers

Starting January 1, the first 10 km free and NT$10 maximum charge on buses in Taichung is set to no longer apply to tens or hundreds of thousands of commuters.
After the new year starts, the policy will only apply to Taichungers.
The only exceptions will be students from other cities studying in Taichung, and foreign spouses–but not other foreign residents.
This, the city estimates, means the policy will no longer apply to 30% of passenger trips.
Two groups will be impacted significantly.
The hardest hit will be the foreign community, especially those that work in factories and as caregivers, whose salaries are low to begin with.
The other large impacted group will be commuters, especially the large number that live in Changhua, but work in Taichung.
Taichungers wishing to keep the discount however, will have to register their value added cards, and children under 12 will be issued their own special half price card.
According to the city, there are 130 million trips annually covered by the double ten policy.
It is costing the city NT$2.8 billion this year, which a city official referred to as “too high of a burden”.
In related transport news, all 18 MRT stations of the upcoming Taichung Green Line have received green construction certifications, meaning they are considered environmentally friendly.
The MRT is expected to launch in November or December.

Gas explosion leaves four dead

Four people were killed and one injured in a gas explosion and ensuing fire in the Longjing District early Saturday.
The Fire Department received a call at 4:17 a.m. about an explosion that occurred at a residential building near the Tunghai Villa Night Market.
The flames soon engulfed other buildings across the street.
By 5:08 am firefighters had extinguished the fire, but they found the charred bodies of a 42-year-old man, his 37-year-old ex-wife and their 8-year-old, as well as the burnt body of a 73-year-old man in another building.
The one injury was of a man who hurt his knee during his successful escape.
The authorities aren’t ruling out arson, possibly as part of a murder-suicide.
They discovered gas canisters on the upper floors, far from the kitchen where they would normally be, with one of them opened.
The body of the 42-year-old man was next to it.
Neighbors had reportedly heard them arguing.
The couple had divorced in May, but were still living together.

Two girls die in tragic fire

The gas explosion in Taichung wasn’t the only tragic story involving fire this week.
Responding to reports of a fire at around noon yesterday in Changhua County’s Erlin Township, firefighters broke their way in and found two young girls, but they were pronounced dead at the hospital.
Their parents were both at work, but the grandparents living next door called the fire department when they saw smoke.
The girls were aged two and 12, and the older girl was completely blind.
There is no word yet on the cause of the fire.

Taichung’s air on the mend

The Taichung City Environmental Protection Bureau has released figures for air pollution in the first half of the year showing a record low since monitoring began.
According to their numbers, the level of PM2.5 air pollution had dropped to 18 micrograms per square metre, down from 18.7 last year and about half what it was a decade ago.
Though an improvement, it’s not all good news.
The safety standard for PM 2.5 set by the WHO is 10 micrograms, while that set by the American EPA is 12 micrograms.
Though that means the first half of the year wasn’t healthy, they also revealed that in August–when the air is usually best–the average was 10.4.

Changhua set to finally get a multiplex

Chunghua Post has announced they have signed a deal that will hopefully lead to breaking ground on a new multiplex cinema centre in Changhua City.
The plan is for a six story structure on the sight of the current GuangFu Road Post Office.
The first two floors of the new structure will remain a post office, with the third to sixth floors given over to movie theatres.
There will also be three underground floors for parking.
Changhua has long had movie theatres, but no multiplexes.

Dark sky park officially launches

After years in the planning, and getting international accreditation, Taiwan’s first international dark sky park has officially launched on Hehuanshan Mountain in Nantou County.
It is only the third in Asia, after one in Japan and another in South Korea.
The park is 2,750 meters above sea level and features low atmospheric disturbance and a low-light nocturnal environment.
Professional stargazers are thrilled, but so may city dwellers whose experience of the stars has been obscured by air and light pollution.

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