Taiwan, NZ set to share earthquake recovery methods

New Zealand may find itself with an ally in dealing with natural disasters such as earthquakes.

Officials in Taiwan say they'd like to share more information with authorities here about coping mechanisms and recovery.

At Taipei's emergency operations centre, an advanced earthquake warning system goes off when a quake strikes. It produces a disconcerting sound - but it's hoped it will save lives.

"This is specifically designed for Taiwan, so this system works when any earthquake occurs," Shi-Jun Kuo of the Taiwan Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.

"There will be a pre-warning system so that will allow us like 20 or 30 seconds to know that the earthquake wave is going to reach Taipei city or other cities in Taiwan."

Developed by staff at the emergency operations centre, it's now downloadable for the general public in Taiwan as a mobile phone app.

"The aim is to give us a pre-warning so we can have some preparation time, to help us cut back on the casualties and also the damage," Ms Kuo said.

Like New Zealand, Taiwan officials know all too well the toll earthquakes can take. In February last year, a 6.4-magnitude tremor struck Tainan city, killing 117 people.

Taipei, the country's largest city, sits on three fault lines, and preparations are constantly being carried out in case a big one strikes.

Nearly $9 million is spent on disaster management in Taipei each year, and that covers things like daily drills carried out by the transportation, police and health bureaus. It also covers the expense of staffing the emergency management centre 24 hours a day, all year round.

In 2011 Taiwan sent a 24-strong urban search and rescue team to help Christchurch in the aftermath of the February quake.

Officials in Taiwan say they'd like to work closer with New Zealand - not only in disaster management, but recovery.

"I think we may have more dialogue in this area for information exchange," Mei-hua Wang, Taiwan's Vice-Minister of Economic Affairs, said.

That's something Taiwan officials hope will help both countries better deal with any future natural disasters.


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