A renowned Chinese researcher has warned that a catastrophic earthquake of magnitude 7 or higher is likely to strike western Taiwan within the next 10 years. The warning came following a magnitude 6.2 earthquake off the east coast of Taiwan on October 24, 2023. The USGS reported this quake as M5.9.
Seismic activity in western Taiwan has been unusually quiet since 2018, accumulating unreleased energy and raising concern for a major earthquake, particularly as the region houses critical industrial facilities and railway transportation. Wang Chung-ho, a researcher at Academia Sinica’s Institute of Earth Sciences, stated that Taiwan enters a “major earthquake cycle” approximately every 30 years. The last such event was the 1999 Jiji earthquake, a magnitude 7 or higher temblor.
According to Wang, the absence of significant seismic activity in western Taiwan contrasts sharply with the frequent earthquakes occurring in the eastern half of the country and offshore. He explained that while frequent earthquakes might be unsettling, they help release pent-up energy, thus reducing the likelihood of a disastrous event.
The risk is amplified by the fact that western Taiwan is home to significant domestic industrial facilities and railway systems. A large-scale earthquake in this area could lead to severe disasters, affecting a multitude of sectors and potentially causing loss of life and property.
National Taiwan University geosciences professor Kuo Chen-hao noted the challenge in predicting the exact timing of a major earthquake due to the relatively short period of seismic observation data, which started becoming available around 1960. Kuo emphasized that Taiwan has improved its building standards after the 1999 Jiji earthquake. However, he is advising the public to prepare earthquake kits containing food, water, and emergency supplies.
While both Wang and Kuo agree that stress has been accumulating in western Taiwan, they highlight the inherent challenges in predicting earthquakes, citing the complexity of rock structures and varying levels of stress that different regions can withstand.
1 Taiwan could have ‘catastrophic earthquake’ in 10 years – Taiwan Times – October 25, 2023
2 專家：台灣10年內恐有致災性大地震 – China Times – October 25, 2023
Featured image credit: China Times
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