Taiwan Life in Brief – October 2016

Typhoon destruction - Gigantic waves caused by Typhoon Meranti destroyed the famous lighthouse at Fugang Port in Taitung County.
Typhoon destruction - Gigantic waves caused by Typhoon Meranti destroyed the famous lighthouse at Fugang Port in Taitung County.


Taiwan hit by three back-to-back typhoons 

Within a two-week period, Taiwan was pummeled by three typhoons. On September 14-15, super-typhoon Meranti, the biggest tropical cyclone of the year with gusts reportedly exceeding 370kph, skirted southern Taiwan. It caused widespread destruction, with at least two people killed and over a million without power. Meranti reached Level 5, the highest category, on the Saffir-Simpson wind scale used to measure Atlantic hurricanes, and is considered one of third most powerful storms ever recorded and the most powerful ever to hit China.

Typhoon Malakas arrived just three days later, bringing torrential rains and sustained winds of 100kph without ever making landfall. With the center of the storm just off Taiwan’s coast, sustained winds exceeded 200kph and briefly reached Level 4 on the Saffir-Simpson scale before being downgraded to Level 3. Most of the impact was on Taiwan’s northeast coast, with hundreds of millimeters of rain falling in Hualien, Yilan, and New Taipei City. Malakas caused the cancellation of hundreds of international and domestic flights before continuing onward to Japan.

On September 27-28, Taiwan was hit by yet a third typhoon, Megi, a Level 3 storm that mainly impacted eastern and northern Taiwan, forcing the closure of businesses and schools for two consecutive days and bringing widespread destruction. Four deaths were attributed to the storm and hundreds injured, while millions lost power and water.

The consecutive storms hit Taiwan’s power grid hard, leaving hundreds of thousands without power for lengthy periods, prompting censure from Premier Lin Chuan over the slowness of repairs. President Tsai Ing-wen, however, walked back criticism of the Taiwan Power Co. after three Taipower employees were injured – one severely – as they attempted to restore power in an isolated mountain region. Tsai praised the courage of the workers and called for a comprehensive evaluation of the nation’s entire grid to seek ways to prevent widespread power outages every time severe weather impacts the island.

Minimum wage and labor laws revised

Taiwan’s minimum wage was raised by the Executive Yuan, with the monthly level increased from NT$20,008 to NT$21,009. The 5% hike will take effect January 1. The hourly minimum was also raised, from NT$120 to NT$126 (US$4.01), taking effect October 1. Regulations stipulating that employees cannot work more than six consecutive days without a holiday – with certain exceptions in specific industries as long as the employee gives express agreement – also came into force on October 1.

Transgender hacker joins government

The government’s goal of transforming Taiwan into an Asian Silicon Valley will get a boost from Audrey Tang, the 35-year-old transgender “civic hacker” who has been invited into the government as Minister without Portfolio with the brief of leading Taiwan’s push into software and services. As a teenager, Tsai was involved in several startups and was instrumental in facilitating communications for the Sunflower Movement in 2014. Tang, who transitioned to a woman at age 24, worked as a consultant for Apple before taking up her cabinet position on October 1.