Reform measures to flood-proof Taoyuan airport

  • Date: 2016-08-08

I. Background

On June 2, 2016 from 8:45 a.m. to 12 p.m., a storm front swept through the Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport (TTIA) area, dumping massive amounts of rain. The sudden downpour inundated low-lying sections of the airport’s main arteries—Hangzhan North and South roads—halting traffic moving in and out of the airport and around the terminals. Parts of the Terminal 2 building were also flooded, which led to a power outage that disrupted numerous flights.

TTIA is the nation’s gateway, with a tremendous impact on arriving and departing passengers, so Premier Lin Chuan immediately ordered the Ministry of Transportation and Communications to fix flooded roads, remove standing water and look after affected travelers. He also demanded a painstaking review of the management, system and construction problems revealed during this incident, saying these issues must be resolved to prevent similar events in the future.

 

II. Government response measures

A. Restoration of services: On June 2, the day of the flood, the government mobilized all airport personnel, equipment and resources to restore services and attend to passengers as quickly as possible. By the afternoon, traffic resumed on Hangzhan South Road and all accumulated water was removed from the underground food court. The following day, 80 percent of power in Terminal 2 was restored, arrival and departure operations were back to normal, and all stranded passengers and unclaimed baggage were sent on their way. By June 4, electricity was restored to six moving walkways and elevators, the hallway D air conditioning system and the B2 food court. On June 5, all air conditioning systems in Terminal 2 were restored to normal function.

B. Investigation findings announced: The Public Construction Commission launched an on-site investigation on June 3, meeting twice with experts and relevant agencies over the subsequent two days. They confirmed that an old and narrow culvert at the 0K+640 mark of Sewer H of the airport drainage system had been clogged by large stones and was unable to drain away rain that day, causing water farther upstream to back up to ground level and submerge the low-lying section of Hangzhan South Road. Investigators also determined that the Taoyuan Airport Corp. failed to immediately shut a water gate at the underground service entrance off Hangzhan South Road, which allowed torrents of water to rush through the service entrance and flood the B2 level of Terminal 2.

C. Disaster response review: The government’s first priority was to enlarge the cross-sectional area of the old culvert to prevent future blockage. To address shortcomings in the airport’s disaster prevention and response mechanisms, the airport will conduct safety exercises, improve protective capabilities and take the following concrete actions:

  1. Inspect all water drainage systems inside and outside the airport area, clear away any obstacles, and test and maintain flood gates, water pump stations and drainage facilities on a regular basis.
     
  2. Augment and reallocate disaster prevention resources. Institute proactive disaster prevention measures by establishing a weather alert mechanism that monitors rain conditions and initiates response actions as soon as alert levels are reached.
     
  3. Build a drainage monitoring and alert mechanism linked to external systems. Assess and install high-powered backup water pumps capable of handling water discharge from the airport area. Increase the power of the Hangzhan North Road water pump unit.
     
  4. Make personnel adjustments at Taoyuan Airport Corp. Conduct swift reviews of the airport’s disaster response mechanism, transportation and disaster information transmission mechanisms, and passenger rebooking and accommodation plans. Reinforce airport maintenance and construction controls, evaluate flood prevention capabilities inside and outside the area, tighten the company’s lax internal controls, and rectify airport maintenance and construction management shortcomings. Formulate medium and long-term policies to improve the company’s operating and management efficiency.

 

III. Conclusion

As the gateway to the nation, the airport and its overall performance can leave a lasting impression on Taiwanese and foreign travelers alike. This incident has not diminished the administration’s resolve to create a world-class airport, and it will urge the TTIA authorities to reflect on this experience and complete the required reforms and improvements. Given Taiwan’s abilities, strengths and determination to create a truly international airport, the government is confident that TTIA will become a first-rate international facility.