2024April 2024International News

Taiwan Rocked by 7.4 Magnitude Earthquake

Ryan Campbell

Staff writer

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On April 3, around 8a.m. local time, Taiwan was rocked by a 7.4 magnitude earthquake, the strongest quake to hit the island in 25 years. The earthquake which struck just offshore the rural county of Hualien, according to Reuters, triggered landslides and more than 50 aftershocks. Le Monde reports that, five days after the quake, 13 people had lost their lives and over 900 were injured. Despite how powerful the quake was, there was a surprisingly low amount of overall damage, says CNN

When the ground stopped shaking, dozens of buildings near the epicenter were damaged, people in Taipei reported tiles falling off their walls says The Associated Press, and The New York Times reports that tremors were felt across the strait in Shanghai and Hangzhou. Across the island, there were many different examples of the damage caused by the earthquake. 212 people were trapped in tunnels, says CNN in another article and The Associated Press reports that 70 workers were trapped in mining quarries. According to Reuters, a nine story building sunk two stories into the ground. 

Despite these stories, infrastructure held up better than expected, and rescuers were able to save almost all of those who were trapped. In fact, much of the damage caused by the earthquake came, not from failing infrastructure, but the landslides triggered by the quake. 

Hualien is a rural and mountainous region in Taiwan, with only a third of the population in the county living in the major city there, says CNN in a third article. These landslides blocked off roads, leaving rescuers unable to get to the rural areas for days after the initial earthquake. CNN also reports that 91,000 households were left without power and electricity. While these functions have since been restored, the number of people reported stranded rose drastically afterwards, as rural areas were able to inform authorities of the missing and trapped there, explains The Guardian.

Taiwan has not faced an earthquake so powerful since 1999, but the outcome of this earthquake, the “Jiji” earthquake, was far worse than that of the 2024 quake in Hualien. According to Voice of America, over 2,400 people died in the 1999 quake, with buildings as far as 145 kilometers away being toppled over. So why did a relatively similar disaster result in so many fewer casualties this time? Taiwan’s top research institution found that much of the damage in 1999 was due to structural flaws. 

CNN reports that after the disaster, the Taiwanese government implemented a comprehensive review of building codes, and added new stipulations that required the use of new technology that made buildings more earthquake resistant. The same CNN report adds that rescue coordination was shockingly inadequate in the 1999 earthquake, but the implementation of new disaster management laws aided in the success of the rescue efforts this time around.

The earthquake in Taiwan was powerful and dangerous. While it caused hundreds of injuries, the outcome was far more positive than expected. The preparedness that Taiwan invested in certainly saved lives despite the damages it incurred. 

Image courtesy of Getty Images

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