Friday, March 04, 2016

Taiwan to expand use of quake early warning system

Taiwan should expand the use of an early warning system for earthquakes that could give valuable seconds for people to react before deadly quake waves arrive, the island's quake research institute said Thursday.

Currently, the technology is used in 236 primary and middle schools. When a quake hits, a short broadcast will automatically notify students and teachers, according to Chang Kuo-chun, head of the Center for Research on Earthquake Engineering.

The center's figures show that after a quake is detected there is around 4 to 50 seconds before strong waves arrive, depending on different distances from the epicenter. For quakes stronger than magnitude 5, there are still 4 to 17 seconds for issuing early warnings.

Chang said the center will cooperate with authorities to expand the use of the warning system to residential and commercial buildings, especially for high-tech sectors.

At present, installing the technology in privately-owned buildings has a relatively high cost and must be agreed upon by property owners in a building, making installation more difficult.

The center will also use its technological expertise to help raise the earthquake resistance of public buildings, including hospitals, police stations, department stores and cinemas, according to Chang.

Earthquakes frequently hit Taiwan. Most of them are minor, but a 7.3-magnitude quake, the strongest to hit Taiwan in about 100 years, shook the island on Sept. 21, 1999, leaving more than 2,400 people dead. A quake that hit southern Taiwan on Feb. 6 killed 117.

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