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Introduction.gif (895 bytes)

bridge_buckle.gif (32375 bytes) Photograph by Ian G. Buckle


Collapsed span in the Wu-shi bridge (east)

by George C. Lee
Multidisciplinary Center for Earthquake Engineering Research
University at Buffalo, State University of New York

On September 21, 1999, at 1:47 a.m. local time (17:47 p.m. Sept. 20, UT), an earthquake of magnitude ML = 7.3 and Mw = 7.7 took place in the central part of Taiwan. The epicenter was located at 120.82E and 23.85N near the town of Chi-Chi, Nautou County. The focal depth was 8.0 km. A surface rupture along the Chelungpu fault of about 105 km was observed, with the largest measured vertical offset reaching more than 9 meters. After the major shock, 10,252 aftershocks were identified (till October 10, 1999); four were greater than magnitude 6.5. As a direct result of this earthquake, over 2,400 lives were lost, more than 10,000 people were injured, over 10,000 buildings/homes collapsed and more than 7,000 suffered damage. This was Taiwan’s worst disaster since the Shin-Chu Taichung earthquake of April 1935, where 3,325 lives were lost in a magnitude 7.1 earthquake (Loh and Tsay, forthcoming).

The Multidisciplinary Center for Earthquake Engineering Research (MCEER) and the National Center for Research on Earthquake Engineering (NCREE) have enjoyed a long history of research collaboration, beginning in 1992, to investigate earthquake engineering issues of mutual interest. Over the years, many collaborative projects have been initiated, most notably in subject areas such as structural control, and evaluation and retrofit of lifelines, especially electric and power. Shortly after the earthquake struck Taiwan, the two Centers decided to use their collective knowledge and expertise to identify important short-term strategies/actions for post-earthquake restoration and research needs. A workshop was convened by Professor C-H. Loh, Director of NCREE, in Taiwan on October 3-5, 1999 to share information already collected, and identify teams for further reconnaissance. MCEER and NCREE researchers were paired together to focus on specific areas. The areas and participants were:

  • Ground Motion Characteristics - C.H. Loh and George C. Lee

  • Geotechnical Aspects - Thomas O’Rourke and M-L. Lin

  • Damage to Critical Facilities - T.T. Soong and G. Yao

  • Building Damage - Michel Bruneau and K.C. Tsai

  • Bridge Damage - Ian G. Buckle, K.C. Chang and J-S. Hwang

  • Lifeline Damage: Electric Power Systems - M. Shinozuka and G.Y. Liu

  • Application of Remote Sensing - M. Shinozuka, George C. Lee and A.J. Chen

  • Economic Consequences - Stephanie E. Chang

  • Emergency Response and Short-term Restoration - Paul J. Flores

The chapters that follow in this report reflect the initial observations of the joint NCREE-MCEER teams, and focus on areas of current and future research collaboration. Many other preliminary reconnaissance reports have been written (see Selected Bibliography), and MCEER is making an effort to avoid duplication of efforts by focusing on developing and applying advanced technologies for seismic hazard mitigation. Future research, based upon the lessons learned and observations made in specific areas, such as critical facilities and lifelines, structural control, application of advanced technologies, and emergency response and preparedness, will focus on the reconstruction of a more earthquake-resilient Taiwan.

In this spirit, MCEER and NCREE met again in April 2000, together with representatives from the Pacific Earthquake Engineering Research (PEER) Center and the Office of National Science and Technology Program for Hazard Mitigation in Taiwan to discuss how to best utilize the extensive data and results collected by these reconnaissance efforts. Two major areas of emphasis were identified: the analysis of new information to enhance model validation; and code improvements and implementation specific to Taiwan.

With these broad areas of emphasis in mind, the intent of the research program is to apply new reconnaissance information to projects already in progress at the four Centers. Proposed focus areas include the following:

  • Ground motion attenuation, site effects, spatial variation and validation.

  • Development of retrofit strategies for buildings shown to be vulnerable by the Chi-Chi earthquake. This includes two parts: development of specific retrofit ideas for 1-3 story and 8-12 story buildings; and development of evaluation and retrofit strategies for hospitals and selected manufacturing facilities including contents.

  • Development of evaluation and retrofit strategies, and system analysis for electric power and water systems.

  • Development of a new system-related loss estimation methods for HAZ-Taiwan.

  • Investigation of social and economic issues.

Representatives of the four Centers are planning to meet, together with other researchers, this fall in Taiwan to discuss the specific details of the research program.

The Chi-Chi earthquake not only helped to identify a very specific research agenda for collaboration between MCEER and NCREE, it provided an opportunity for MCEER and the PEER Center to coordinate expertise and work together. The earthquake was devastating to the people of Taiwan, but the positive outcome is that new research opportunities have been identified, our team efforts have been enhanced, and experts from a variety of earthquake hazard mitigation centers have been brought together.

 1.1 References

Loh, C.H. and Tsay, C-Y. (forthcoming), "Responses of Earthquake Engineering Research Community on the Chi-Chi (Taiwan) Earthquake,"submitted to EERI Spectra.

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