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Taiwan shaken but unbowed as biggest quake in 25 years spotlights preparedness — and lessons learned

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image of building falling sideways with crowd of traffic and motorcyclists blurred in view in front of scene

CNN, April 2024

Wu was preparing breakfast for guests at the small hotel he runs in Taiwan’s Hualien County when the shelves around him shook violently and the mountain behind his house roared. Fearing the building would collapse, he rushed his guests to safety outdoors. Across the river, steep slopes were slipping from the mountains, the air swallowed by clouds of dust.

But Wu’s house suffered little damage from Wednesday’s 7.4 magnitude tremor, Taiwan’s most powerful in 25 years, something he attributes to a wider push to make the island more quake-resistant. “Our government conducted a comprehensive review of building codes after the 1999 earthquake, and all buildings going up must use new technologies that make them more resilient to earthquakes,” he says.

Fifteen years ago when he started building his two-story guesthouse near the entrance to Taroko Gorge – a national park famed for its steep, marble-walled canyons – Wu had to get government approval of its earthquake-preparedness. And experts say changes like this have helped the tremor-prone island avoid mass casualties in quakes like the one that hit on Wednesday.

“I feel very lucky,” says Wu of the remarkably low-level damage wrought by the massive quake. “It’s not too bad.”

It’s a similar story in Hualien, a city just 11 miles from the epicenter, which looks strikingly calm the day after the tremor. Stores and restaurants have reopened, as have roadside stalls selling fruit, vegetables and snacks. Trains to the city, suspended as a precaution on Wednesday, have resumed and are running on schedule.

Read more at CNN.

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