0206 Earthquake in Hualien
What Can be Done in the Wake of the Earthquake
Source：Kuo Tai Liu
Situated in the Circum-Pacific earthquake belt—or the Ring of Fire—Taiwan is no stranger to earthquakes. Yet even locals of the most earthquake-prone region in Taiwan have revealed a widespread fear since the disastrous earthquake that occurred in Hualien on Tuesday.
What Can be Done in the Wake of the EarthquakeBy Sharon Tseng
Hualien, a county known for its abundance of nature, history, and culture, has been suffering from a devastating magnitude-6.4 earthquake and its aftershocks since the sleepless night of Tuesday—heartbreaking news to be heard on the eve of Chinese New Year. At least ten were killed, 270 injured, and seven residents and occupants of the now badly damaged and tilting Yun Men Tsui Ti building (雲門翠堤大樓) continue to be unaccounted for, according to officials. Locals have claimed that this was the most severe earthquake to have occurred over the past six decades in one of the most earthquake-prone regions in Taiwan. “This is serious disaster. Never seen a building tilted like that before,” recalled a local.
What worries scholars the most is that most buildings in the county famous for “keeping its natural beauty” are old structures renovated. “What kills is not the earthquake, but the old buildings.”
Strengthen Earthquake-Resistance Structures
According to Professor of Urban Planning and Disaster Management at Ming Chuan University Liangchuan Chen (陳亮全), the age of the building is only one factor that can cause a collapse. Structure design and construction quality also play a crucial role. There is an urgent need for “disaster-resistant renewal projects,” a conclusion agreed by many other scholars, while Professor Chen believes that the time-consuming implementation would not provide what people in Hualien need the most—timely protection for the unexpected.
To ensure the safety of residents, the government should encourage regular examination and measures to strengthen earthquake-resistant structures of old buildings. “Many landlords are unwilling to have their buildings examined, for fear of a drop in its value,” sighed the Professor.
Set Disaster-Prevention Parks
Public parks can serve as perfect temporary sanctuaries, where victim relief service centers can be settled to provide relief materials, temporary water supply, and communication service. If spacious enough, emergency medical stations can also be set up in the park.
Hualien, with its relatively high potential for earthquakes and its popularity among tourists, should be granted more attention and resources on emergency response policies and procedures.
Foreigner-Friendly Transparency in Victim Relief Information
Yesterday, a post on Taiwan’s largest Facebook group of translators, from a local Chinese-English translator from Hualien, has called for help on providing translations of victim relief information to foreigners currently in Hualien, who are said to be “bewildered” by the limited, scattered, and fragmented information they can access. With the help of these volunteered translators, a clear map for water supply and temporary sanctuaries in Hualien is now available in English here.
What We Can Do for Hualien
Apart from keeping ourselves updated with latest news, reviewing how to improve emergency response, and praying for them, there is more we can do to help relieve the suffering resulting from the earthquake, and restore the tourist-friendly region back to its beauty.
Tzu Chi (慈濟), one of the biggest Buddhist charity organizations based in Taiwan, has set up a channel for donation collection that accepts PayPal here. For some countries, including the United Sates, donations are tax-deductible.
Nearly two decades have passed since the devastating 921 Earthquake. With accumulated experience, improvement may be seen in the timely responses and efficiency in disaster emergency SOPs. Yet, as hundreds of aftershocks persist in threatening the stricken area, reports from the Seismological Center of Central Weather Bureau have pointed out the existing possibility of a larger earthquake to occur, and fearsome headlines proclaim that scientists have predicted an increase of earthquakes in the year of 2018, the government and people in Taiwan should be better prepared for the unexpected. After all, when it comes to safety, there is no room for compromise.