Author(s): Angelo Verzoni. Published on March 1, 2018.

Taiwan Tremors

Quake topples buildings, heavily damages others in Hualien City


At least 10 people died and hundreds more were injured in early February when a 6.4-magnitute earthquake rocked Hualien City, a coastal tourist city in Taiwan.

The quake toppled four buildings, according to Reuters, and left others—like the one pictured here, the Yun Men Tsui Ti building—in danger of collapsing. According to the New York Times, rescuers used steel beams to prop up the tilting 12-story structure. Residents have demanded an investigation to determine how and why the structures failed, since quakes in the past have not resulted in as much damage to the city.

Those past outcomes actually led to people not taking the tremors seriously at first, according to some accounts. “I’ve never experienced an earthquake but I’d heard people say there were often earthquakes here, so at first I didn’t react,” one tourist told Reuters. “But later when all the lights started smashing—the floor was covered in glass—that is when I realized it was serious.”

A Hualien City native told the New York Times that “it wasn’t a normal earthquake,” citing the seemingly endless number of aftershocks the city experienced. “We’ve had bigger quakes here many times before, but the aftershocks taper off gradually. Right now we don’t know what will happen,” he said.

Taiwan, a small island nation about 100 miles off the China coast, is prone to earthquakes. In 2016, more than 100 people died in a quake that hit southern Taiwan, and in 1999, a 7.6-magnitute quake killed over 2,000 people.

Earthquakes are very common but not usually severe. According to NFPA data, 12,000 to 14,000 earthquakes are reported every year in the United States—about 35 a day. Explore NFPA’s resources on planning for natural disasters.

ANGELO VERZONI is staff writer for NFPA Journal. Top Photograph: AP/Wide World