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33 aboriginal settlements unsafe: president

Taipei, Nov. 10 (CNA) Thirty-three out of 64 aboriginal settlements around the country have been determined by experts as unsafe and will probably have to be relocated, President Ma Ying-jeou said Tuesday.

"We are working on plans to keep the aboriginal settlements at their original sites as much as possible, but if relocation is the only option, we hope the people living in these settlements will defer to the government's judgment," he said.

Aware that the residents of these settlements would rather rebuild their homes at their original sites, the president said safety should be the top consideration and urged people to look at the issue rationally.

"The government will find proper locations to rebuild settlements for these people," he said.

Citing a study by Chen Hung-yu, a geology professor, and Lin Ming-lang, a civil engineering professor, both at National Taiwan University, Ma said other 10 settlements are considered "safe with conditions," with the remaining 21 declared safe.

He said the two experts based their findings on aerial photos, topographic maps and satellite photos of the settlements.

Ma made the remarks while receiving a group of rescuers who helped with relief operations in aboriginal settlements around the island in the wake of Typhoon Morakot.

Morakot swept through Taiwan Aug. 8-9, killing more than 600 people. Most of the victims were killed by mudslides triggered by torrential rain in mountainous areas populated mostly by indigenous people.

The heavy toll exacted by Morakot on lives and property prompted discontent with the Ma administration, led to the step-down of then-Premier Liu Chao-shiuan and prompted an islandwide survey of aboriginal settlements in an attempt to prevent a repeat of the tragedy.

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