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How Taiwan managed to keep its death toll so low during 7.4 magnitude earthquake —largest in 25 years

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image of taiwanese firefighters and workers looking at destroyed building after earthquake

A 7.4 magnitude earthquake has rocked the east coast of Taiwan — the largest the island nation has seen in 25 years. The death toll as of Thursday stands at 10, with more than 900 injured and dozens more missing. The powerful initial quake set off tsunami warnings in Japan, China and the Philippines.

For a region so densely populated, the number of recorded deaths is remarkably small compared to the strength of the earthquake — a testament to the country’s disaster preparedness, says Daniel Aldrich, a Northeastern professor, director of the university’s Security and Resilience Program and co-director at the Global Resilience Institute.

“What we’re seeing here is a combination of a ‘top-down’ and ‘bottom-up’ governance culture that has kept the death toll relatively low,” Aldrich tells Northeastern Global News. “The government has long recognized the threat from seismic risks and invested in a variety of measures like, for example, very strict building codes.”

In disaster preparedness, “top-down” means that officials update and enforce building codes; make plans — such as evacuation shelters, food and water distribution, among others — in expectation of future shocks; and allocate resources, such as ensuring hospitals and medical personnel are well-equipped in event of a shock. 

“Bottom-up” means communities work together, trust each other and plan for shocks — mapping out evacuations and deciding who needs help based on their local needs. Aldrich says the best approach to managing and preparing for disasters combines both concepts “for a well-rounded strategy.”

Read more at Northeastern Global News.

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