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Photo by M. Bruneau

Damage due to irregular structural configuration


In the early morning hours of September 21, 1999, a devastating earthquake struck the central region of Taiwan. This earthquake became known as the 921 earthquake or the "Ji-Ji" or "Chi-Chi" earthquake. The magnitude of the 921 earthquake was MS = 7.6 (Richter scale) or ML = 7.3 (the system used in Taiwan). There were two large aftershocks of ML = 6.8 that occurred about 30 hours and 120 hours after the main shock. An ML = 5.3 aftershock was recorded as late as 260 hours later causing collapses of already damaged structures. As of October 1999, the death toll stands at more than 2,400, with over 10,000 people injured. Approximately 10,000 buildings/homes collapsed and over 7,000 more were damaged. In addition, there was widespread destruction and disruption of lifelines, including roads and bridges, communication systems, water and gas supply systems, and electric power systems.

Shortly after the earthquake occurred, MCEER arranged to visit the devastated area through the National Center for Research on Earthquake Engineering (NCREE), located at the National Taiwan University in Taipei, Taiwan. NCREE hosted a workshop for MCEER researchers and others to identify short-term strategies/actions for post-earthquake restoration and research needs. MCEER researchers were paired with NCREE researchers with similar specialties, and the joint reconnaissance teams examined the earthquake’s impact. Their initial observations and impressions are reported in the MCEER/NCREE Response, which can be accessed from our web site at   More comprehensive studies have since been carried out by NCREE. These reports are in Chinese, and are listed in the Selected Bibliography section of this report.

This report contains observations from this reconnaissance trip and workshop. It is the product of many authors representing several disciplines and, while not a final assessment of the topics addressed, represents a preliminary earthquake engineering evaluation of the natural, built and social environments. The observations and conclusions herein form a springboard for future collaborative research efforts between MCEER, NCREE and other colleagues, in our common goal to create earthquake resilient communities throughout the world.


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I would like to order The Chi-Chi, Taiwan Earthquake of September 21, 1999: Reconnaissance Report. Copies are $30.00 each.


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