Taiwan Launches Database on Land Prone to Soil Liquefaction

Taiwan Launches Database on Land Prone to Soil Liquefaction
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What you need to know

Taiwan launched an online database that provides locals with information on areas prone to soil liquefaction, a phenomenon where the strength and stiffness of a soil is diminished by earthquakes, making the soil behave like liquid. The phenomenon is believed to be the factors for serious damage caused by earthquakes around the world.

Translated and compiled by Bing-sheng Lee

On March 14, Taiwan launched an online database that provides residents in eight territories on the island with information on the areas prone to soil liquefaction. These eight regions include Taipei, New Taipei, Yilan County, Hsinchu County, Hsinchu City, Tainan, Kaohsiung and Pinging County.

The database, developed by the Central Geological Survey (CGS) under the Ministry of Economic Affairs, incorporates color-coded maps that enable a user-friendly interface. Users can easily find the locations of their houses via computers or smartphones, and check if the land beneath their houses is prone to the effects of soil liquefaction.

Chiang Chung-jung, head of CGS, says the system will send color-coded alerts to citizens who sign up to receive them.

Soil liquefaction is a phenomenon where the strength and stiffness of a saturated or partially saturated soil is diminished by the shaking of earthquakes or other sudden changes, making the soil behave like liquid. Liquefaction and related phenomena have been said to be the factors for serious damage following powerful earthquakes around the world.

The phenomenon was also responsible for many building collapsing in the 1999 magnitude-7.6 quake in Taiwan that claimed the lives of 2,300 people and resulted in a comprehensive overhaul of laws regarding building construction.

A government official says the database is for reference only and people do not have to panic if they are living in areas with high potential of soil liquefaction since this does not mean the places pose immediate threat.

Sun Li-chun, spokesperson for the Executive Yuan, emphasizes that collapse of buildings during earthquakes results from many factors, and soil liquefaction is just one of them. For example, the real reason for the collapse of the Wei Guang building in the magnitude-6.4 earthquake that took place early February was the poor management and construction quality of the contractor, not because of liquefaction.

Some also worry that the publication of the data might affect housing prices in areas listed as high potential of liquefaction.

Yet, Huang Yi-ping, deputy director of the Public Works Department at the Taipei City Government, says that there is no direct proof that indicates releasing this kind of geographical data to the public could cast an impact on housing prices.

He takes areas around the MRT Xinyi Line and Daan Forest Park as examples. Huang says both areas have high soil liquefaction potential, but the housing prices in these places have not been affected.

Check out the database here.

Edited by Olivia Yang

The News Lens
“Taiwan Launches Database on Areas Vulnerable to Quake Damage” (ABC News)
“Government survey on soil liquefaction available from today” (China Times)
“Soil liquefaction database goes online” (CNA)
“Quake safety database launched” (China Times)