Scores remain missing after Taiwan’s biggest earthquake in 25 years

April 4, 2024
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Six people who had been trapped in a mining area were rescued by helicopter Thursday morning.

Twenty-six of about 50 hotel workers traveling to a resort in Taroko National Park have been found, Reuters reported, citing Taiwan’s fire department. The fire department showed drone footage of other hotel workers waving from the side of a road, near a minibus that had been crushed in the back.

Rail service to the Hualien area was also restored Thursday.

Wednesday’s earthquake was the strongest to hit Taiwan since 1999, when a 7.6-magnitude tremor killed about 2,400 people, said Wu Chien-fu, director of Taiwan’s Seismological Center.

Taiwan authorities have taken major steps to improve earthquake preparedness and response since then, said Daniel Aldrich, director of the Resilience Studies Program at Northeastern University in Boston.

That includes “top-down” measures like a strict enforcement of building codes, he said.

“They’ve also organized a number of ‘bottom-up’ responses, so making sure individual residents know what to do,” Aldrich said. “Where’s the evacuation shelter? What do I do? Where do I go?”

The result, he said, is far fewer casualties in Taiwan than have been reported in earthquakes of similar strength in places such as Haiti, India and China.

The lessons of the “top-down, bottom-up” approach to disaster management can be applied around the world, Aldrich said, including in the United States, where he said planning in earthquake-prone places such as California could be improved.

“In many ways, the disaster’s outcome is not the function of the disaster, per se, but about the situation in the country before it happened,” he said.

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