Earthquakes

Life is short and fragile.  Human tragedy is followed by improvements and renewal.

Readership: All
Theme: Redemptive Headship and Masculinity
Length: 1,000 words
Reading Time: 6 minutes + 2 video clips (26 minutes total)

Oscar wrote an email to me, asking how I have been coping with the recent earthquakes in Taiwan.  We are doing fine, thankfully.  I appreciate his thoughts and prayers and those of other readers.

I have some information about the recent earthquakes and a story to tell about earthquakes in Taiwan.

Information about Earthquakes in Taiwan

Image Source: Taiwan Central Weather Bureau / Earthquake Report

Taiwan lies at the cusp of the Eurasian and Philippine plates.  The island of Taiwan was created from plate shifts (involving earthquake activity) over millions of years.

There are earthquakes in Taiwan almost every day.  The vast majority of these earthquakes are minor. Most are hardly detectable to human senses.  Some are a quiet gentle swaying.  The scarier quakes produce a loud rumbling noise and everything hops and scoots on the floor and bangs around.

After living here for a while without experiencing any serious consequences, I now find them to be rather fun and entertaining.

But once in a while, we’ll have a big one.

There was a 7.7 magnitude quake that struck on 1999-9-21 that killed 2,415 people and injured 11,305 more. This quake caused NT$300 billion (US$10 billion) worth of damage.

As you’ve probably heard by now, there have been many earthquakes here lately.  There were more than 70 per day between Saturday and Wednesday!  Most of these recent earthquakes are minor, but there have been several 4s and 5s.  Two of them were over 6!  One 6.4 on Saturday night and a 6.8 on Sunday afternoon. These earthquakes were rather shallow (between 5 to 20 km. deep).  This translates into more violent shaking compared to the deeper quakes.  (Some are as deep as 200 km.)

M6.5 Earthquake Hits Taiwan – Sept. 17, 2022

M6.9 Earthquake Hits Taiwan – Sept. 18, 2022

Many more videos can be found here.

Casualties and Noteworthy Structural Failures

  • Compressive fault lines appeared in many places (visible in the videos above).
  • One old building collapsed, killing an elderly man inside instantly.
  • Gaoliao Bridge and Lun Tien Bridge are two other major structures that collapsed!  Yuli Bridge also suffered unrepairable damage.  All these bridges are very long and very old, are are located in Fuli Township, Hualien, near the epicenter of the quakes.
  • There is a mausoleum that had many cremation urns shaken out of their vaults and smashed, about 800 total.  Because of the presumed spiritual significance of this event, the descendants of the dead and the mausoleum managers are in a quandary over this.
  • There are also several landslides that blocked roads in the mountains.  Many people are stranded in certain locales because of the blocked roads.

Fortunately, the epicenter and most of the damage is in a rural area.

Predictive Factors of Failure

Damage depends on a few factors.

  • The depth, intensity, and propinquity of the quake.
  • The frequency of oscillation.
  • The natural harmonic frequency of structures, such as bridges and buildings.
  • The design and construction of the bridges, buildings, etc.
  • The composition of the ground under the foundation.

If the frequency of oscillation matches the natural harmonic frequency of a structure, and if the quake is long and intense enough, then that structure will come down if it is not designed to withstand a quake.

For the inquisitive science geeks among us, this is explained in the following video.

The video says earthquakes produce horizontal longitudinal waves. However, I have experienced earthquakes having a rapid up-and-down motion, which I suppose is either a vertical longitudinal or perhaps a horizontal transverse wave. This type of motion has a different science behind it, and these are generally much more destructive.

A Short Story about the Construction Industry in Taiwan

I have a little story to tell, that fits into our topic of redemption.

1951 was a historic year for earthquakes in Taiwan.  There was a lot of damage, but people buried the dead, swept up the mess, and moved on with their lives.  People considered it to be an act of God, and no one thought there was much that could be done about it.

Then in 1958, there was an old four story elementary school that suddenly and totally collapsed during an earthquake, instantly killing 128 children and injuring hundreds more.  To make matters worse, the insurance industry could not shoulder the burden of rebuilding the school and compensating all the families.  The public outrage was so tremendous that the Taiwan government responded by going on the warpath to revamp the entire construction industry.

Some of the measures taken included…

  • Lots of government funding went toward research in developing structures that can withstand earthquakes.  As a result, many new engineering designs were invented that can prevent a structure from undergoing catastrophic failure.  Most of these designs are now required by law for new buildings.
  • The government instituted a government bureau for overseeing the construction industry.  This bureau imposes a large number of standards and requirements for construction projects and attempts to reduce the amount of corruption and fraud related to the industry.
  • One requirement is that the planning and finances of construction projects are to be made public knowledge, and people are urged to report any questionable activities or controversial developments.
  • Construction companies are required to place large signs in front of every construction project, giving information about the construction company, the lead engineer, the budget, companies under subcontract, and the size and duration of the project, among other information.  This includes phone numbers and website links for people to get more information and/or report any suspicious activities.
  • Construction companies, executives, and key engineers overseeing construction projects that fail in an earthquake now face spectacular fines (if no one was hurt) and jail time (if it resulted in death).
  • Property owners are required by law to carry earthquake insurance, thereby supporting the insurance industry.

Taiwan was under martial law at that time (up until 1987), so these changes were sweeping.

As a result, the Taiwan construction industry is now the best in the world by many estimations, not only because of the rigor surrounding quality, but also because they can build structures that can reliably withstand severe earthquakes.

Of course, there’s still a lot of corruption and graft in the industry, and certain older structures continue to fail during major quakes, but nevertheless, the design and construction of newer building projects is much better than most anywhere else in the world.  Anymore, the only major structures that fail in an earthquake were built before the 1970s.

Epilogue

If you think about it, this is a story of redemption.

The deaths of those 128 children in 1958 were indeed a sad and grievous catastrophe.  But because of this tragedy, the quality and standards for construction improved, deaths continue to be prevented on an ongoing regular basis, and 23 million people live without fear of earthquakes in a land that has earthquakes nearly every day.

A question that readers may like to consider is this: Is suffering and loss a necessary part of redemption?

Further Reading

About Jack

Jack is a world traveling artist, skilled in trading ideas and information, none of which are considered too holy, too nerdy, nor too profane to hijack and twist into useful fashion. Sigma Frame Mindsets and methods for building and maintaining a masculine Frame
This entry was posted in Attitude, Collective Strength, Enduring Suffering, Government, Media, Models of Failure, Models of Success, Organization and Structure, Politics, Power, Science, Society, Taiwan, The Power of God. Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Earthquakes

  1. In Taichung there’s the 921 Earthquake Museum which commemorates the 1999 quake. It is built on the site of a collapsed school and the ruins have been left intact as a reminder. Pretty intense for a museum. Some photos here:

    Trip Advisor: 921 Earthquake Museum of Taiwan

    Liked by 4 people

  2. Scott says:

    I had no idea they were so common there. I mean, I guess I could have figured it out being in the pacific ring of fire.

    Growing up in southern California was a bit shaky sometimes. But the big one, for me was the 1994 Northridge quake. My mom was the mayor of Santa Clarita at the time. It is a landlocked city that had extensive freeway damage, water table problems and things like gas stations shut down for fear of the underground tanks rupturing.

    Like

  3. Oscar says:

    “Is suffering and loss a necessary part of redemption?”

    Yes.

    Hebrews 9:22
    And according to the law almost all things are purified with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no remission.

    Ideally, the only suffering necessary is Christ’s, but we’re a wicked, stiff-necked people, so it usually takes a lot of additional suffering to wake us up.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Jack says:

      “Ideally, the only suffering necessary is Christ’s…”

      In the past, I’ve often wondered why Christians must suffer so much if Jesus already paid the cost.

      “…but we’re a wicked, stiff-necked people, so it usually takes a lot of additional suffering to wake us up.”

      This is one way to interpret it. I came to the conclusion that our suffering has a few purposes, such as…

      — Testing our beliefs.
      — Building character.
      — Identifying with the sufferings of Christ.
      — Learning to be patient and to persevere.
      — In some cases, suffering for righteousness sake glorifies God and draws others to Him.

      One time, I brought up this question in my men’s fellowship group. One guy famously remarked, “If God sent his only Son to die on a cross, and He was perfect in every way, what makes you think God should treat you any better, since you’re an adopted son and far from perfect?” Not sure I agree with his implied assumption that the character God displays is dependent on a person’s righteousness, but he had a good point about us having an entitled attitude and expecting all roses and no thorns from faith / God / life.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Oscar says:

        He has a point.

        Matthew 10:24-25
        24 A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. 25 It is enough for a disciple that he be like his teacher, and a servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more will they call those of his household!

        Liked by 2 people

    • Kentucky Gent says:

      I liked Oscar’s 1-word answer, and it’s exactly what I was going to post. Then he went on to add something which, respectfully, I reject:

      “Ideally, the only suffering necessary is Christ’s, but we’re a wicked, stiff-necked people, so it usually takes a lot of additional suffering to wake us up.”

      I reject this because, ideally, Christ’s suffering wouldn’t be necessary at all. We’d all be naked in the garden, eating from the tree of life, and wouldn’t be fallen, thus wouldn’t need redemption. But that ship sailed, so no use dwelling on it.

      Once Adam and Eve fell, and all of humanity became wicked, then we all became obligated to suffer for redemption. The catch is, this isn’t even possible for us without the Cross.

      In other words, given the reality of our fallen natures, the ideal can NEVER be “only Christ’s suffering”. The ideal can only be “Christ’s suffering opened the gates of heaven for wicked mankind, who must still suffer if we want to take advantage of the redemption purchased for us.”

      Note to all: I am a devout Catholic and firmly believe Catholic [orthodox] theology is true. Wherever Protestantism deviates from orthodox theology, it is false. No offense is intended.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Oscar says:

        The problem is not that we disagree, or that there’s a difference in Catholic and protestant theology here. The problem is that we’re setting the “ideal” at different points in the timeline.

        I agree that the absolute ideal would be that Adam and Eve never sinned. But that already happened and we’re never going back to before it happened, so there’s no point in considering that ideal.

        At our point in the timeline, the ideal is that we hear of Christ’s suffering and immediately repent in tears of gratitude. Sadly, that rarely happens. It’s a lot more common that we have to hit rock bottom before we repent.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Kentucky Gent says:

      “The problem is not that we disagree, or that there’s a difference in Catholic and protestant theology here.”

      Well, there’s a zillion different protestant churches out there. I don’t claim knowledge of all of their various theologies. But there are significant differences in Catholic/orthodox soteriology compared to the soteriology of Protestant “reformers” such as Martin Luther and John Calvin.

      Secondly, my disclaimer was not directed at you individually. I don’t even know if you are Catholic, Protestant of some kind, or even Eastern Orthodox.
      The point of my disclaimer is to let other commentators know where my theology coming from, since I only very recently began posting comments.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Oscar says:

    Off topic: Mark Driscoll, eat your heart out.

    Daily Mail: Russia’s rag-tag reinforcements: Conscripts drink and brawl on their way to the frontlines as men rush to marry single mothers and become elderly carers in desperate bid to dodge the draft (2022-9-23)

    “…reports from within Russia itself suggested men were rushing to marry single mothers or register as elderly carers in a desperate bid to dodge the draft by having dependents.”

    Man up and marry those single moms (or go to war)!

    “However, their hopes will likely prove in vain as the only exceptions from Putin’s sweeping laws are age, illness, or imprisonment.”

    Well, damn it!

    Like

  5. Ed Hurst says:

    My family moved to Anchorage, AK just a few months after their huge “Bad Friday Quake” in 1964. I spent the latter half of my youth there. Lesser shakes were so common that I lost all fear of them. There’s nothing you can do, so enjoy the ride.

    When I went to teacher’s college, the school library had the entire USGS report on the big 1964 quake and I read as much as I could; it was a whole bookshelf by itself. I found the data absorbing, with all the physics and math of how that stuff was analyzed. In some places, the ground became like Jello under the compression waves, which waves could pulverize concrete and sandstone.

    The state came up with a new building code after that. Last time I checked, the upper limit to buildings is 15 stories. One hotel in Anchorage was that tall, and it featured a Teflon pad under the foundation. Ironically, that building was damaged in a somewhat lesser quake later because a shorter building next door didn’t have that Teflon pad, and the two bounced off each other several times.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jack says:

      There has been a lot of research on earthquakes and how to construct earthquake-proof structures. I’ve learned about some of the new designs by working with construction engineering researchers in Taiwan. One popular concept that was going on about 10-15 years ago was “controlled failure”. Basically, this is when a building is designed to fail in such a way that doesn’t bring the building down nor harm the inhabitants. One common approach behind this method is to strengthen vertical columns and weaken horizontal columns, which allows the building to sway instead of crack and collapse. The swaying absorbs a lot of energy that would otherwise cause cracking. One method for doing this concerns how horizontal beams are joined to vertical columns such that the joint will bend a limited amount, thereby absorbing energy instead of allowing that energy to propagate cracks leading to the breaking of the joint. Another method uses notches in horizontal beams which allows the beam to bend in those places, thereby absorbing the energy that would otherwise be transferred to the end joints to horizontal columns where cracking normally occurs. A slightly different approach focuses on designing walls such that the sheer stress exerted by the walls on adjacent columns is diffuse and not localized. This strengthens the column and reduces the probability of breaking the column. More recently, the technique has been to weld or tie the ends of the rebar together in a literal knot before pouring the concrete, to prevent pull-out under bending stress. I was fascinated by all these innovations.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. “Is suffering and loss a necessary part of redemption?”

    There are so many variables. One thing for sure is that you might suffer as part of redemption. I heard a chilling story of a guy who was seemingly a lifelong, devoted Christian. Then he got cancer and completely abandoned God because, in his mind, God didn’t keep his part of the bargain. The bargain, of course, was something the guy made up and was foreign to the Bible. He thought that if he went to church, donated, etc. then God would keep him from really bad things.

    But if his faith has been in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, then getting cancer wouldn’t have changed a thing. Jesus hasn’t changed a bit.

    Hebrews 13:8
    Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

    John 16:33
    I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s