Throwback to 1999 Jiji earthquake in Taiwan where 2,415 people were killed

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New Delhi: On April 3, 2024, Taiwan was rocked by an earthquake of 7.7 magnitude that damaged the eastern part of the island. Hualien, the eastern county and epicentre of the quake has been particularly affected. According to reports, four people have died, over 50 have been injured and at least 26 buildings have collapsed as rescue works to save those trapped under the debris is going on. This reminds us of the 1999 earthquake that the island witnessed, the most fatal quake to affect Taiwan in recent times.

The 1999 earthquake

The 1999 earthquake in Taiwan is known as the Chi-Chi earthquake and later also as the Jiji earthquake. It took place on September 21 and its epicentre was at the southwest of Sun Moon Lake, near the town of Jiji (Chi-Chi). The magnitude of the quake was 7.7 on the Moment scale and 7.3 on the Richter scale.

In the month after the main quake, there were 12,911 aftershocks. One of the aftershocks on September 26 was of 6.8 magnitude on the Richter scale. While Taiwan experiences most of its earthquakes off the eastern coast, the 1999 earthquake unusually took place off the western coast.

What caused the earthquake?

The western part of Taiwan is a complex region of faulting, thought to be a stress boundary due to the collision of the Philippine Sea plate with the Eurasian plate. Its epicentre was located between the Chelungpu and Shuantung faults. Interestingly, the earthquake occurred in the middle of a region where recent background seismicity was relatively low.

The damage from the 1999 earthquake

The 1999 earthquake was the second most devastating earthquake in the recorded history of Taiwan after the Shinchiku-Taichu earthquake which took place in 1935. The Jiji earthquake killed 2,415 people, while 11,305 were severely wounded. Around 51,711 buildings were destroyed and 53,768 buildings were severely damaged. The cost of the total damage was $10 billion. Most of the island had no power as the power and the transmission stations were damaged and Taiwan’s three nuclear power plants automatically stopped functioning.

The quake badly damaged 102 bridges. During the main quake and aftershocks, 132 landslides took place. A total of 870 schools were damaged and out of them, 125 schools were severely damaged. Several national government and rescue groups from around the world joined hands to help Taiwan and its survivors, to distribute food and other aid to the more than 100,000 people whom the quake had made homeless.

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