That This Building Didn't Fall Is a Testament to Taiwan

Country's earthquake preparedness likely contributed to its low death toll
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 4, 2024 7:00 PM CDT
That This Building Didn't Fall Is a Testament to Taiwan
A police officer stands guard near a partially collapsed building a day after a powerful earthquake struck in Hualien City, eastern Taiwan, Thursday, April 4, 2024.   (AP Photo/Chiang Ying-ying)

In the wake of Thursday's magnitude-7.4 earthquake in Taiwan, "the precariously leaning 10-story Uranus Building quickly became a symbol of the tragedy," reports Nikkei Asia. But the fact that it's standing at all is a sign of just how well prepared the country was for a major quake, argues the New York Times. A fire official in Hualien tells Reuters the building had consisted of a basement level and nine above-ground floors; "the first and second floors are now underground," he said. And yet it "remained largely intact, allowing residents to climb to safety out the windows of upper stories," per the Times, which delves into the steps Taiwan has taken since it first accounted for earthquake resistance in its building codes in 1974.

Strong quakes in 1999 and 2018 prompted rounds of building inspections and reinforcements (the article notes, for instance, that more than 10,000 school buildings have been retrofitted in the last two decades). That likely contributed to a relatively low death toll, which currently stands at 10, per the AP. But some of the credit goes to the people themselves, who have become skilled in challenging rescue efforts and who know how to ride out earthquakes from experience. As one resident says, "They know to shelter in a corner of the room or somewhere else safer," and many keep essentials in a bag in their bedroom.

Hualien is the closest city to the earthquake, and this paragraph from the Times sums up how well it weathered the natural disaster:

  • "It was possible to walk for city blocks without seeing clear signs of the powerful earthquake. Many buildings remained intact, some of them old and weather-worn; others modern, multistory concrete-and-glass structures. Shops were open, selling coffee, ice cream and betel nuts. Next to the Uranus Building, a popular night market with food stalls offering fried seafood, dumplings and sweets was up and running by Thursday evening."
(More Taiwan earthquake stories.)

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