Earthquake in Taiwan: Provide as Much Support as Possible to Damaged Areas

Taiwan has been hit by another major earthquake. It is hoped that Japan, as a neighbor that shares the disaster experience, will provide as much support as possible through the public and private sectors.

The earthquake, whose epicenter was off the coast of Hualien in eastern Taiwan, struck on April 3, reaching upper 6 on the Taiwan seismic intensity scale of 7. Multiple people were killed and more than 1,000 were injured. The Japan Meteorological Agency estimates the quake had a magnitude of 7.7.

Taiwan is a quake-prone area, and earthquakes around magnitude 7 have struck in the past. The latest quake is said to be the largest since the 1999 Taiwan earthquake that killed more than 2,400 people.

In Hualien, where the tremors were strongest, there were a number of building collapses and falling stones, and roads have been cut off. Reportedly, many people have been stranded at hotels in mountainous areas and elsewhere and contact has been lost with others. There are concerns about the spread of the damage.

Taiwan must also stay on guard against large aftershocks. It is hoped that authorities will do their best to rescue victims as soon as possible.

The ground floor of many buildings in Taiwan are used for parking lots and other purposes, and concerns have long been raised about buildings’ seismic resistance. Though seismic resistance standards were strengthened after the 1999 earthquake, eastern Taiwan has lagged the west in urban development, and has a conspicuous number of older buildings.

It is possible that a combination of these factors contributed to the significant damage this time. Hopefully, further study will be conducted in the future, and this will be used to build cities that can withstand disasters.

The factories of semiconductor manufacturers, which are clustered in Taiwan, were also affected by the disaster and faced such situations as temporary halt of operations.

Taiwan accounts for 90% of the world’s production of the most advanced chips used in high-tech devices. It can be said that the risk of concentrating supply chains in a single location has once again been highlighted.

Taiwan has been quick to lend a helping hand to Japan when the country has experienced difficulties.

Taiwan provided more than ¥20 billion in relief donations after the March 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, the largest level of donations from any country or region around the world. After the Noto Peninsula Earthquake on New Year’s Day, Taiwan quickly raised ¥2.5 billion in donations for Japan. During the coronavirus pandemic, 2 million masks were sent from Taiwan to Japan.

After the 1999 Taiwan earthquake, aid workers from the Japanese government and volunteers arrived in the affected areas and worked hard to rescue people and provide temporary housing, drawing on their experience from the 1995 Great Hanshin Earthquake. The people of Taiwan likely remember this kind of aid.

After the most recent quake in Taiwan, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said, “Japan stands ready to provide necessary assistance when Taiwan, our neighbor, faces difficulties.” It is hoped that if there is a need, Taiwan will ask for help immediately.

Mutual repayment of favors is a symbol of the depth of the Taiwan-Japan relationship. The Japanese government needs to be fully prepared to move quickly to provide assistance, including for the future reconstruction of Taiwan.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 5, 2024)