The 1999 Jiji Earthquake

Posted by Karl Lundgren on

Imagine a tranquil night in the picturesque town of Jiji, nestled amidst the serene landscapes of Nantou County, Taiwan. The moon cast a gentle glow over the mountains, and a soft breeze whispered through the trees. It was the kind of night that would usually lull the residents of Jiji into a peaceful slumber, nestled in the heart of nature's embrace. But on the fateful night of September 21, 1999, this idyllic scene was shattered by a seismic catastrophe that would send shockwaves not only through the town but also through the collective memory of Taiwan.

At precisely 1:47 AM, as the town lay asleep, the earth beneath Jiji began to tremble with an unforgiving force. The peaceful night transformed into a nightmare as buildings quivered and then crumbled, roads cracked open, and bridges collapsed. The earth's fury spared nothing in its path, and for the unsuspecting residents of Jiji, it was a night that would forever change their lives. This was the night of the 1999 Jiji earthquake, a seismic event with a magnitude of 7.6 on the Richter scale, leaving in its wake a trail of devastation, resilience, and hope. In this article, we delve into the harrowing tale of the 1999 Jiji earthquake, exploring its profound impact, the lives it touched, and the remarkable recovery efforts that would follow.

The 1999 Jiji earthquake

On September 21, 1999, the small town of Jiji in Nantou County, Taiwan, experienced a seismic catastrophe that would forever change the lives of its residents and leave an indelible mark on the nation's history. The 1999 Jiji earthquake, also known as the 921 earthquake due to its occurrence on September 21, remains etched in the collective memory of Taiwan as a testament to the resilience, solidarity, and determination of its people in the face of adversity. In this article, we will delve into the details of the 1999 Jiji earthquake, its impact, and the remarkable recovery efforts that followed.

The 1999 Jiji Earthquake: A Devastating Tremor

The 1999 Jiji earthquake was a massive seismic event with a magnitude of 7.6 on the Richter scale. It struck central Taiwan with relentless force, causing widespread destruction and loss of life. The epicenter of the earthquake was located near Jiji, a picturesque town nestled amidst lush mountains and serene landscapes. At 1:47 AM local time, the earth shook violently, catching residents off guard as they slept, resulting in a tragic loss of life and property.

Impact and Destruction

The immediate impact of the earthquake was catastrophic. Buildings crumbled, roads buckled, and bridges collapsed, leaving many trapped beneath the rubble. In Jiji and the surrounding areas, homes, schools, and businesses were reduced to rubble. The earthquake also triggered landslides in the mountainous terrain, further exacerbating the disaster.

One of the most iconic images from the aftermath of the earthquake was the collapse of the Wuchang Temple in Jiji, a historical and cultural landmark dating back to the Qing Dynasty. Its collapse symbolized the gravity of the destruction and loss experienced by the community.

Human Toll

The 1999 Jiji earthquake exacted a heavy toll on human life. Tragically, over 2,400 people lost their lives, and thousands more were injured. Families were torn apart, and entire communities were left in mourning. It was a somber reminder of the fragility of life and the unpredictability of natural disasters.

Rescue and Recovery

In the wake of such devastation, the people of Taiwan, along with international aid organizations, rallied together to provide immediate relief and support to the affected areas. Rescue teams worked tirelessly to extract survivors from the rubble, and makeshift hospitals were set up to tend to the injured. The outpouring of solidarity and support demonstrated the strength of human compassion in the face of adversity.

Rebuilding Lives and Communities

The recovery process in the aftermath of the 1999 Jiji earthquake was nothing short of remarkable. Taiwan, known for its resilience and determination, embarked on a long and arduous journey to rebuild lives and communities.

  1. Government Initiatives: The Taiwanese government played a pivotal role in spearheading recovery efforts. Financial assistance, housing programs, and infrastructure rehabilitation were top priorities. The government also implemented strict building codes and seismic regulations to ensure greater resilience to future earthquakes.
  2. Community Resilience: Communities in Jiji and surrounding areas exhibited unwavering resilience. Residents came together to support one another, helping rebuild homes and businesses. Local initiatives, such as community-based disaster preparedness programs, were established to enhance resilience.
  3. International Support: Taiwan received aid and support from countries around the world. This international solidarity further bolstered the recovery process and highlighted the importance of global cooperation in times of crisis.

Lessons Learned

The 1999 Jiji earthquake left an enduring legacy in Taiwan. It underscored the need for comprehensive disaster preparedness and response strategies. Some of the key lessons learned from this tragic event include:

  1. Building Resilience: The importance of stringent building codes and infrastructure that can withstand seismic events is paramount. Taiwan has since invested heavily in earthquake-resistant architecture and engineering.
  2. Community Engagement: Engaging communities in disaster preparedness and response efforts is crucial. Informed and empowered communities are better equipped to respond to emergencies.
  3. International Collaboration: The 1999 Jiji earthquake highlighted the significance of international collaboration in disaster relief and recovery. It emphasized the interconnectedness of nations in the face of natural disasters.


The 1999 Jiji earthquake was a devastating event that shook Taiwan to its core, but it also brought out the best in its people. The resilience, determination, and sense of community displayed by the residents of Jiji and the entire nation in the aftermath of the earthquake are a testament to the human spirit's ability to overcome adversity.

Today, Jiji stands as a symbol of hope and recovery. It serves as a reminder that even in the darkest of times, people can come together to rebuild and create a better future. The lessons learned from the 1999 Jiji earthquake continue to shape Taiwan's disaster preparedness efforts, ensuring that the nation is better equipped to face any challenges that may arise in the future.

So what can we do to get better prepared?


A kit is not a safety blanket you just purchase to make yourself feel better, it is an important investment in your household’s safety and preparedness. Not all emergency kits are created equal, and we highly recommend using the Province of BC and Government of Canada resources when building or buying a kit. We are also pleased to offer Earthquake Kits that developed to meet the government requirements for emergency preparedness. Visit our Gov BC Earthquake Kit product page to view the contents of our kits and feel free to use this as a guideline for assembling your own. What’s important to us is not that you buy a kit from us, but that every household have a kit at the ready in case something unexpected should occur.


The Province of BC and the Federal Government have made huge strides in this area in recent years implementing an Emergency Notifications network through mobile carriers and testing it to great success levels. This can provide seconds to even minutes of advanced notice prior to an earthquake being felt in any given location. However, a network of this complexity relies on strategically positioned censors along the coastline. We need to continue expanding this network of sensors and make sure that existing censors are being properly monitored and maintained.

We also need to expand from mobile phone notifications to physical alarms in homes, buildings, and especially schools/daycares.

For more details on how this Early Detection Grid works, please check out the following video by the CBC several years ago.


Know the Hazards

Knowing which hazards you need to plan for is the first step to getting prepared


Build Your Kits

Put together a household emergency kit and grab-and-go bag.


Make Your Plan

Plan how you will respond to a disaster to stay focused and safe.


Guides and Resources

Preparedness guides and community resources are available to help get ready for emergencies.


Evacuation and Recovery Resources

Learn what happens in evacuations, what financial assistance you might be eligible for and other recovery resources.


Education Programs and Toolkits

Create awareness about preparing for emergencies with Prepared BC's easy-to-use education programs and social media toolkits.

Share this post

← Older Post Newer Post →

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published.