Updated April 4th, 2024 at 14:14 IST

Explained: Why is Taiwan Vulnerable to Quakes and How it uses Technology to Mitigate the Risk

Over the years, the island has honed its disaster response mechanisms, transforming itself into a global exemplar of earthquake preparedness.

Reported by: Sagar Kar
Taiwan. | Image:AP
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In the early hours of Wednesday morning, Taiwan was jolted by one of its most formidable earthquakes in a quarter-century, leaving a trail of devastation in its wake. At least nine lives were claimed, and over 1,000 individuals were left injured, underscoring the island nation's vulnerability to seismic activity. 

Yet, amidst the chaos, Taiwan's adept technological infrastructure and strategic policies emerged as pillars of resilience, mitigating the catastrophe's toll and offering a beacon of hope amid adversity.

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Why is Taiwan vulnerable to earthquakes?

Taiwan's geographical location renders it susceptible to frequent earthquakes, nestled as it is along the Pacific "Ring of Fire," a volatile belt brimming with seismic faults and active volcanoes. The island bears witness to the tumultuous interaction of the Philippine Sea Plate and the Eurasian Plate, culminating in periodic temblors that shake its foundation. This geological reality means that Taiwan experiences around 90% of the world's earthquakes, a statistic that underscores the perpetual threat lurking beneath its surface.

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Developing resilience through technology 

However, Taiwan has not succumbed passively to this seismic fate. Rather, it has leveraged its technological prowess to fortify itself against the wrath of nature. Over the years, the island has honed its disaster response mechanisms, transforming itself into a global exemplar of earthquake preparedness. Stringent building codes, a state-of-the-art seismological network, and extensive public education campaigns have formed the bedrock of Taiwan's resilience strategy.

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The harrowing memory of the 1999 earthquake, which claimed thousands of lives and left a trail of destruction in its wake, served as a catalyst for change. In the aftermath of this seismic catastrophe, Taiwan embarked on a journey of introspection, bolstering its emergency response and disaster reduction protocols. The Disaster Prevention and Protection Act was enacted, and national centers were established to enhance coordination and training for earthquake scenarios.

Professor Daniel Aldrich, a leading voice in disaster governance, reflected on Taiwan's transformation, stating to AP, "Observers strongly criticized Taiwan's response...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." However, Taiwan heeded these critiques, undergoing a seismic shift in its approach to disaster management.

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Dr. Stephen Gao, a prominent seismologist, hailed Taiwan's advancements, affirming its status as a global leader in earthquake preparedness. He underscored the island's continuous endeavor to refine its disaster response systems, citing recent innovations that have further fortified its resilience. Wu Yih-min, a professor at National Taiwan University, elucidated on these advancements, detailing to AP how Taiwan's sophisticated technology aids in swift response and efficient resource allocation.

Wednesday's earthquake shined forth a light on Taiwan's swift response mechanism 

Wednesday's earthquake, though formidable, served as a litmus test for Taiwan's resilience. The island's swift response mechanisms sprang into action, swiftly restoring electricity to the majority of affected households within hours. Despite the tragic loss of life and the widespread destruction, Taiwan's ability to weather the disaster with fortitude and resilience stands as a testament to its unwavering spirit.

As the nation grapples with the aftermath of this seismic event, it does so with a renewed sense of determination. Taiwan's journey from vulnerability to resilience serves as a beacon of inspiration, highlighting the transformative power of technology, policy, and collective resolve in the face of adversity. In the heart of the Pacific "Ring of Fire," Taiwan stands as a shining example of human ingenuity and resilience, a testament to the indomitable spirit of its people in the face of nature's fury.

(With inputs from agencies)

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Published April 4th, 2024 at 14:14 IST