Volume 17 Issue 3, 2002

The Politics of Emergency Response and Recovery: Preliminary Observations on Taiwan's 921 Earthquake

Carla Prater, Jie-Ying Wu

By Carla Prater and Jie-Ying Wu, Hazard Reduction & Recovery Center, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX, U.S.A

Archived Article


On September 21, 1999 the 921 or Chi Chi earthquake struck the centre of Taiwan. The earthquake’s magnitude was ML 7.3, and MW 7.7 and the epicentre depth was 8 km. The earthquake hit at 1:47 am, and left about 2,471 dead and 11,305 seriously injured. Over 10,000 buildings collapsed and direct losses were estimated at US$14 billion. This paper describes some of our preliminary findings on a National Science Foundation project conceived in order to study the organisational and institutional response to 921, concentrating on linkages between organisations and different levels of government. The study area covered the two most affected counties, two smaller towns and Taipei. Data were gathered from interviews, government documents, and media reports. Our research questions centred on the agenda status of earthquake preparedness, the role of the military in disaster response and recovery, the role of the private sector in disaster response and recovery, and the effects of local government capacity on disaster response and recovery. The authors gratefully acknowledge support from the American National Science Foundation (CMS 0085056) and assume sole responsibility for all statements and conclusions