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Magnitude 7.2 Earthquake in Taiwan Claims 9 Lives, Injures Over1000

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On Wednesday, Taiwan’s largest earthquake in at least 25 years killed nine people and injured over 1000 others, while 50 workers traveling in minibuses to a hotel in a national park went missing.

Some structures slanted at dangerous angles in the hilly, thinly inhabited county of Hualien, near the epicentre of the 7.2 magnitude quake, which struck just offshore at around 8 a.m. (0000 GMT) and produced extensive landslides.

As nightfall struck, some individuals spent the night in tents and other forms of shelter. Meanwhile, teams of rescue workers attempted to shore up damaged buildings and demolish those judged unsalvageable.

“The Uranus building behind us is in terrible shape. It consists of one basement level and nine upper stories. Lee Lung-Sheng, Deputy Acting Chief of the Hualien Fire Department, stated that the first and second levels are currently underground.

According to Hualien City Mayor Hsu Chen-Wei, all people and businesses in buildings under risk have been evacuated. The mayor announced that demolition work had begun on four structures.

Taiwan Earthquake 2024

Taiwan Weather officials reported more than 50 aftershocks.

“I’m afraid of aftershocks, and I don’t know how bad the shaking will be,” a 52-year-old Hualien resident named Yu said as she walked to a shelter.

Taiwan is located along the Pacific “Ring of Fire,” a line of seismic faults that encircles the Pacific Ocean and is the source of the majority of the world’s earthquakes.

The area is especially sensitive to temblors due to the stress created by the interactions of two tectonic plates, the Philippine Sea Plate and the Eurasian Plate, which can cause rapid earthquakes.

The region’s mountainous terrain can intensify ground shaking, resulting in landslides. Several such landslides happened on Taiwan’s eastern shore near the epicenter of Wednesday’s earthquake in eastern Hualien County, when falling debris collided with tunnels and highways, crushing automobiles and killing several people.

“Taiwan’s earthquake preparedness is among the most advanced in the world,” stated Stephen Gao, a seismologist and professor at Missouri University of Science and Technology. “The island has implemented strict building codes, a world-class seismological network, and widespread public education campaigns on earthquake safety.”

Taiwan Earthquake 2024

Search-and-rescue teams have been working around the clock

The government constantly revises the amount of quake resistance required of new and existing buildings, which may raise construction costs, and provides subsidies to people who are willing to test their buildings’ quake resistance.

Following a 2016 earthquake in Tainan, on the island’s southwestern shore, five people engaged in the construction of a 17-story high-rise apartment complex, the only significant structure to collapse and kill hundreds, were found negligent and sentenced to prison.

Taiwan is also promoting earthquake drills in schools and businesses, and public media and cellphones frequently transmit earthquake and safety messages.

“These measures have significantly enhanced Taiwan’s resilience to earthquakes, helping to mitigate the potential for catastrophic damage and loss of life,” Gao said in a statement.

Search-and-rescue teams have been working around the clock

Taiwan’s 1999 earthquake provided a wake-up call.

Since 1980, Taiwan and its surrounding waters have had almost 2,000 earthquakes with a magnitude of 4.0 or greater, as well as more than 100 earthquakes with a magnitude greater than 5.5, according to the USGS.

The island’s worst quake in recent years occurred on September 21, 1999, with a magnitude of 7.7. It killed 2,400 people, injured around 100,000, and damaged thousands of buildings.

According to Daniel Aldrich, professor of political science and public policy at Northeastern University, it was also a big wake-up call that resulted in significant administrative reforms to better emergency response and catastrophe reduction.

“Observers strongly criticized Taiwan’s response to the 21 September 1999 earthquake, arguing that it took hours for emergency medical response teams to arrive, that rescuers lacked training, and that the operations between government agencies were not well coordinated,” he added in a follow-up email.

As a result, the government created the Disaster Prevention and Protection Act, which established two national centers for earthquake coordination and training.

Source: Reuters

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