Taiwan Earthquake: It Could Have Been Worse

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The Independent Online
TAIWAN ESCAPED devastation on the scale that ravaged Turkey last month because of modern engineering techniques and the fact that Taipei has a far better record of enforcing building codes.

"Taiwan regularly experiences small earthquakes, and larger earthquakes have occurred not so long ago, so people are much more aware, building practices are regulated and codes are more effectively enforced," said Adrian Chandler, professor of earthquake engineering at the University of Hong Kong. "But Turkey was totally without any real enforcement at all," he added.

Although, at 7.6 on the Richter scale, Tuesday's quake was bigger than the one that hit Turkey on 17 August and measured 7.4, it killed far fewer people. While the death toll in Taiwan looked set to rise above 1,600, Turkey's less stringent building standards contributed to the deaths of at least 15,000 people.

In Taipei, Taiwan's largest city, only a handful of deaths were reported. Most of the fatalities happened near the epicentre in Nantou county and Taichung city, where initial local reports indicated that the newest buildings were the ones that collapsed. Reports blamed this on a recent rash of shoddy construction.

Lorien Holland