The reluctance of election-obsessed local governments to carry out evacuation orders as Typhoon Morakot approached Taiwan not only caused severe casualties, but also hindered relief work afterwards, analysts said. Lack of judgment and knowledge of the handling of disasters, from top leaders to residents, should also be blamed for the death toll of more than 500 from the typhoon, which hit Taiwan on August 8, the island's political and military experts added. 'It has been very common for local officials to reject the central government's order to evacuate residents during disasters over the years,' said Chang Ling-chen, a political analyst at National Taiwan University. 'We also didn't see any monitoring and penalty system to check and punish local officials.' She cited as an example some highways and bridges that were still under repair long after being damaged by typhoons in southern Taiwan last year. No one has been punished for the slow pace of repairs. Politicians from both major camps were busy cultivating voter bases, she said. 'Evacuating thousands of villagers in the mountains is not an easy job, and it upsets villagers so much,' she said. 'I heard one county head had rejected an order to evacuate 50,000 villagers because he said, 'It's an impossible job.' 'In fact, both central leadership and local officials are reluctant to upset local residents as they all need votes to keep political power.' Taiwan will hold regional elections at the end of the year. Lin Chong-pin, a professor at the Graduate Institute of International Affairs and Strategic Studies at Tamkang University, said all Taiwanese should think about what they could and should have done during the deadly disaster. 'Our government and people should realise that more and worse massive disasters - including typhoons, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, drought and deadly infectious diseases - will be coming as global warming worsens,' said the former deputy defence minister. 'Many of our military officers still believe their top mission is going to war with the mainland's People's Liberation Army, and that rescue and relief work are minor jobs - even though the PLA has seen disasters as their top enemies since last year.' Typhoon Morakot should cause all island residents to rethink what disasters can involve, Professor Lin said. 'For example, indigenous villagers should realise that mountain areas are not a safe place for residents, even though their ancestors set up home and lived there for hundreds of years,' he said. 'Our government officials should also learn a lesson from this storm and rectify all mistakes right now, because Typhoon Morakot is just a small test for Taiwan.' Chen Chang-wen, president of the Taiwan Red Cross, criticised the slow response of authorities - given that the island has plenty of experience in coping with storms, flooding, earthquakes and other disasters. 'Maybe we could prevent more tragedies from happening or reduce casualties if we had better preparation ... However, it's a pity that we always forget the lessons we learned before,' Mr Chen said. 'I hope it is the last time all of us - including the Taiwan Red Cross and the government - has to do a selfcriticism. Our government should spare no efforts to set up a system to prevent or reduce casualty rates during disasters.'