Scientists fear Taiwan due for major earthquake


Taipei : Some Taiwan scientists have warned that a major earthquake might strike Taiwan soon because there have been very few small quakes in the first half of 2007, a newspaper reported Monday.

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The Liberty Times said that in the first half of the year, Taiwan has recorded only 147 mild quakes, which is only a quarter of the tremors during a normal year.

In the same period, there were only six earthquakes measuring 5 to 6 on the Richter scale, down from 27 on a normal year.

This has caused some scientists to worry that a major quake may be on its way.

According to the Liberty Times, Chen Chen-yu, a professor of geology at the National Taiwan University, said: "Lack of release of seismic energy could be an indicator of a major quake. Taiwan's cities and counties which stand on fault lines must take precautions."

Kuo Kai-wen, director of the Seismological Observation Centre, said the lack of seismic activities was unusual, but "currently no country can predict when an earthquake will occur".

But Yen Hong-yuan, an associate professor at the Geophysics Department of the Central University, did not agree with the "killer quake" theory.

"Although there have been less than normal seismic activities in the first half, that does not necessarily mean there will be a killer quake, because there is an active period and sedate period for seismic activities. Seismic activities under Taiwan could pick up in the latter half this year," the paper quoted him as saying.

Taiwan lies on the circum-Pacific seismic belt which links the Aleutian Islands, Japan, the Philippines, Indonesia, New Zealand, Chile and the US West Coast.

About 68 percent of the world's earthquakes strike this area.

The most recent devastating quake in Taiwan occurred on September 21, 1999, when an earthquake measuring 7.3 on the Richter scale hit central Taiwan counties of Taichung and Nantou, killing 2,400 people and injuring more than 10,000.