The Most Dangerous Place on Earth: Earthquake Edition

A tent filled with yellow-clad rescue workers in Hualien, Taiwan, after the earthquake April 3, 2024
Image: Shufu Lin, Office of the President [CC BY 2.0]

by Brian Hioe

Taiwan was hit by the largest earthquake in 25 years the other day. I woke up, noticed that the floor was shaking, and tried to go back to bed. This earthquake was going on unusually long, I thought. Then I heard the sound of something clattering in the kitchen. Okay–earthquakes are quite frequent in Taiwan, but the sound of my coffee machine falling off the table in my kitchen–that wasn't normal.

“What if the building collapses?” I thought, realizing that I had no idea what to do in the event of a disaster. The odds of a building collapsing during an earthquake in Taipei, the capital city, were relatively low. Still, I live in Bangka, the poorest district in Taipei, which often ranks as the poorest place in the nation. I’d already been worrying about the possibility of liquefaction from a construction site across the street, in the wake of such an incident a few months earlier.

By the time it stopped, I knew this was one of the largest earthquakes I’d experienced, but I didn’t realize until later that it had been the largest in a quarter-century.

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