A magnitude 7.6 quake struck central Taiwan about 90 miles south of Taipei at 1:47AM Tuesday September 21, 1999 local time (17:47 9/20/99 GMT). 2,031 people were killed, 8,500 injured, 6,000 buildings were destroyed and up to 100,000 people were left homeless. Many camped out for days for fear of the continuing aftershocks; over 7,100 have been recorded so far with magnitudes as high as 6.8. Some of the aftershocks caused further building collapse and casualties. Fears of illness, poor sanitation and lack of water are now the major concerns. Rescue teams from China, Japan, the United States and Turkey, among others helped with clean-up efforts and the search for survivors. 5 days after the quake hopes are dimming for finding any more alive in the rubble, although 2 more were found after being buried for 5 days.
Although many buildings collapsed, including a 12 story hotel/apartment building in Taipei, the damage was much less than in the somewhat smaller Turkish Quake in August. This can be attributed to stronger, better enforced building codes in Taiwan. However there will be investigations of code violations in the buildings that did collapse. Rapid growth has led to a number of illegal buildings that were thought to be not up to code. Some contractors have been questioned and others were told not to leave for the time being. Officials admit that the death toll would have been lower had codes been followed.
Power was out to almost 5 million of the 22 million inhabitants of the island. The stock market was closed for 5 days following the quake and is scheduled to open for limited trading on Monday September 27. Government officials have expressed concern that the market will plunge due to concerns of the economic impact of the quake on the island nation. An emergency decree limits market declines as part of a package designed to aid in the recovery. The military will work on rebuilding and have been given special powers to combat black marketeers and looting. The government will make low interest loans available to quake victims.
Taiwan is located in the "Ring of Fire" surrounding the Pacific Ocean. This is one of the most seismically active regions of the world. Taiwan in on the boundary between the Philippine Plate and the Eurasian Plate.
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