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Above: Hsinchu Sogo Department Store. A favorite destination during "Typhoon Holidays".

Natural Disasters

Earthquakes (Year Round)

Lying along the edge of the Pacific Ring of Fire, Taiwan lies in an earthquake prone region that has frequent earthquakes. During my three years in Taiwan, I was in approximately 12 earthquakes. About 4 per year. Some earthquakes were minor and only once did I actually run outside because of the shaking. The last major earthquake was in 1999 and several thousand people died. Fortunately, Taiwan buildings are made fairly sturdy and the structures withstand earthquakes well.

What to do if there’s an earthquake?

The first one always scares you and raises your heart beat, but you learn to stay still, relax and just ride out the quake. There is no rule on when to leave a building, so trust your instincts. If everyone is running outside, it may be a good idea.

During the 1999 earthquake, many people were hurt or killed when they tried to leave their apartment building. The staircase is weaker than the building, so I was told to not leave during an earthquake by the stairs.

What do I do if I'm on a higher floor during an earthquake?

My apartment was equipped with a safety "crane" type device that was bolted to the floor. It was basically a steel bar built into the concrete floor of the apartment. Nearby was a box with various hooks and thick rope. I assume this was in case of a fire or if the elevators and stair case doesn't work during an earthquake. I did open the box containing the rope and other equipment, I never actually measured, but the rope did not seem it was long enough to reach from my 6th floor to the ground floor. Fortunately I never had to use this safety device!

What is an earthquake like?

Put a cheap printer on a folding table, and print something, that’s what an earthquake will feel like if you are sitting down at a table. The shaking of the walls and windows can be replicated by imagining the shaking of your house as a train approaches and passes.

Typhoons (same as hurricane season)

Typhoons are just like hurricanes, but instead of the Atlantic, typhoons originate in the Pacific. Typhoons bring rain, floods, high wind and cancelled classes! Nothing to worry about, usually just stay indoors and don’t go out unless you have to go sing KTV or go shopping. Really, during typhoon holidays, citizens of unaffected cities usually go to the local SOGO or sing the day away at the thousands of karaoke (KTV) businesses. I recommend shopping because of the free air conditioning and it is a fun place to people watch. For the most part, just limit traveling during typhoons and you should be fine.

In the mountainous areas of Taiwan, typhoons bring landslides and flooding of rivers.

The Plum Rains (April-Summer)

About April of each year and lasting until the summer, Taiwan experiences downpours of rain. The rain is frequent and unceasing sometimes. You get used to the weather and eventually welcome the rain as it makes Taiwan feel less hot.