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EDITORIAL | Post-Earthquake Aid to Taiwan Must Meet Local Needs

Japan should provide Taiwan effective assistance that meets its needs — rescue operations, medical care, and helping the victims get by in their daily lives.



Demolition work is progressing on the Uranus Building, which was tilted due in the earthquake, on April 5. Hualien, eastern Taiwan. (© Sankei by Masamichi Kirihara)

On the morning of April 3, Taiwan was hit by a strong earthquake. Its epicenter was in the ocean area off Taiwan's east coast.

Hualien County and other areas close to the epicenter of the quake suffered extensive damage from collapsed buildings and landslides. 

Immediately after the quake struck, the Japan Meteorological Agency issued a tsunami warning for the main island of Okinawa. It did the same for the Miyakojima and Yaeyama Islands regions farther southwest. The warning was changed to a tsunami advisory at 10:40 AM and lifted at noon. 

Aftershocks continue intermittently in the area, causing tremendous anxiety among disaster victims. Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has promised that Japan will do all it can to help and will provide assistance as soon as possible.

In the mountainous area of Hualien County, a new bridge (front) collapsed due to an earthquake, leaving only an adjacent bridge built during the Japanese colonial period (back). On April 6, Taiwanese authorities were reinforcing the Japanese colonial-era bridge to allow one-way traffic. (Photo provided by the Public Roads Bureau, Taiwan Ministry of Transportation)

Long History of Helping Each Other 

Hopefully, we will be able to lend a helping hand to the people of Taiwan by accurately grasping the disaster situation. We should then provide effective assistance that meets local needs — for example, rescue operations, medical care, and helping the victims get by in their daily lives. 

According to the Japan Meteorological Agency, the estimated scale of the earthquake was a magnitude of 7.7. It had a maximum seismic intensity of more than 6. Therefore, it was comparable to the Noto Peninsula Earthquake on this New Year's Day (7.6 magnitude). It was also similar to the Chi-Chi Earthquake of 1999 (7.7 magnitude) that took 2,413 lives in Taiwan. 

Following the April 3 earthquake, a 30-centimeter tsunami was observed on Miyakojima Island and Yonaguni Island. 

An army truck rescues people from Taroko Gorge in Hualien, eastern Taiwan on April 6. Many were stranded in this area due to the earthquake. (© Sankei by Masamichi Kirihara)

The Japanese Archipelago and Taiwan are situated on top of a series of earthquake-prone zones along the boundary between the Philippine Sea plate and the Eurasian plate. Notably, Taiwan provided Japan with assistance immediately following the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011. Later, after an earthquake struck the Hualien area on Taiwan's east coast in 2018, Japan was the only foreign country to provide assistance. We should value the ties of trust and mutual support we have forged at all times, not just in times of disaster. 

Taking Earthquakes and Tsunami Seriously

This April 3 earthquake did not generate a tsunami large enough to cause damage to land areas. But local residents and tourists alike took shelter in evacuation centers and other places of refuge on Okinawa Island. They did the same on the islands of the Miyakojima and Yaeyama island groups. 


We should take this opportunity to reconfirm and share awareness of the importance of tsunami disaster management

Part of the road in Taroko Gorge, which had been impassable due to a landslide, has been restored. Disaster victims who escaped in private cars had their names checked at a checkpoint on the morning of April 7 in Hualien, eastern Taiwan.(© Sankei by Masamichi Kirihara)

The Great Yaeyama Tsunami of 1771 was a great historical tragedy costing the lives of over 10,000 people. Since it was a magnitude 7.4 quake, it was smaller than the eastern Taiwan quake on the morning of April 3. But the tsunami that followed was estimated to have been some 30 meters in height and took the lives of roughly half of the residents of Ishigakijima. (It was originally estimated at 40 to 80 meters tall.) Not only residents of Okinawa but also tourists should know about that super-tsunami. 

Scientists do not yet fully understand the mechanism of tsunami generation, and the precision of forecasts remains limited. An actual tsunami might not always be smaller than originally forecast, although this one was. The goal is to ensure that lives can be protected in the case of a huge tsunami like the one that followed the Great East Japan Earthquake or the Yaeyama Earthquake. That means evacuating people without fixating on the predicted height of the tsunami or the arrival time. 


(Read the editorial in Japanese.)

Author: Editorial Board, The Sankei Shimbun