skip to Main Content

Source: Why Tuesday’s earthquake in Taiwan was so much less destructive than the one in 1999

The recent 7.4 magnitude earthquake in Taiwan resulted in tragically lost lives, but the damage and casualties were significantly lower compared to the devastating 1999 quake. As engineers and disaster response professionals, it’s crucial to understand why. In an interview with NPR, our CEO, Dr. Kit Miyamoto, explained that Taiwan’s commitment to improving building codes, construction inspections, and seismic retrofitting over the past 20 years made a huge difference in the outcome of this earthquake.

Older concrete structures are particularly dangerous during earthquakes because the reinforcement can essentially explode under intense motion. However, modern construction techniques, such as using hooks around piers and columns, allow buildings to move without collapsing, making them much safer.

Taiwan’s experience highlights the critical importance of continuously updating building codes, enforcing them, and investing in seismic strengthening of older structures. These actions undoubtedly saved countless lives and reduced the extent of damage.

California and other earthquake-prone regions worldwide must learn from Taiwan’s example. A similar quake in California could affect 4 million people, cause 2,000 fatalities, and completely damage 5-10% of buildings. Additionally, the prevalence of wood-frame construction in California poses a significant risk of fires following an earthquake.

×Close search