Earthquakes

If you live somewhere long enough, everything becomes normal – even things that blew your mind when you first moved.  A few days ago I was sitting and reading when my apartment started to sway.  At first it didn’t register, but as the floor beneath me moved a bit I realized what was happening.

“Meh.  Another earthquake.” I thought, and continued to be fixated by Tyrion Lannister’s exploits in Game of Thrones.

Only later, when I got a flood of anxious emails from friends and family back home did I realize how serious this really was.  Thinking back on my first earthquake experience in Taiwan I looked something like this:

And now I’m all:

Except I’m not a baby.

Before I came to Taiwan, I had no idea that earthquakes were a part of regular life here.  Of course, being situated where it is, and being a small island, that seems like common sense, but in the flurry of moving and excitement of starting a new adventure, one rarely thinks of negative things.  So, I was blissfully unaware of the regularity of earthquakes in Taiwan.

This most recent one, a 6.1 in Nantou county got me thinking, so I did a little bit of research, and here’s what I found.

Some of the earliest quakes to be recorded, date all the way back to 1674.  The island has been rocked my many, ranging from 5.3 to 8.3 ( Richter scale) over the years.  Between 1901 – 2000 this island saw 91 major quakes.   In recent years, the most devastating ones have been:

  1. In 1935  a 7.1 affected Hsinchu and Taichung.  3276 dead.
  2. In 1999 a 7.3 – this one was island wide and claimed 2413 lives.

Other ones of lesser magnitudes have claimed anywhere from 1 – 13 lives.

Most of the earthquakes felt on the island originate off the east coast.  This is where the Phillipine sea plate, and the Eurasian plate converge, and seismic activity constantly threatens the eastern cities of  Taiwan (Hualien, Taitung etc).  While the offshore earthquakes are the most common, they don’t cause the most damage.  It’s the quakes that originate underneath the island that are the most devastating.

Taiwan has a number of active faults (ranging from 33-43 – depending where you look).  The most recently suspected one is a 100 km “blind fault” that may have caused the Nantou earthquake.  “Blind fault” refers to a fault that’s not officially recoznized and can only be detected by seismic activity.

In addition to this fault, Taiwan also has 2 large faults (both 100 Kms) – the Chelungpu Fault and the Meishan Fault.  Other known faults in Taiwan are the Jinshan and Shanjiao faults in northern Taiwan and the Dunzejiao fault in central Taiwan.

So there you have it, a brief rundown of the history of earthquakes in Taiwan.  I jumped into it not knowing about this, but it’s definitely something to consider if you are planning to come to Taiwan.

Here’s a look at the fault lines in Taiwan:

 

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