Taiwan earthquake exemplifies effect of hasty construction

magnitude-6.4 earthquake struck Tainan, Taiwan on Saturday Feb. 6. CNN reported at least 40 deaths and hundreds of injuries and missing persons. Now, prosecutors are questioning if the casualties can be attributed to the faulty construction of the buildings that collapsed.

Because of the destruction, rescue teams had difficulty finding survivors in the rubble. According to The New York Times, Secretary General Chen Mei-Ling said, “We don’t want to use big drills to get down there because we might kill people.”

The drills, however, are crucial to get to underwater pipes that would make it easier to save the victims. The rescuers were put in a peculiar position when navigating these destroyed buildings because the city structure is constructed to withstand earthquakes. Therefore, the equipment necessary to carry out this operation is non-existent because—in theory—it would not be needed.

The majority of the deaths and injuries were attributed to the Weiguan Jinlong Tower—which collapsed—and seven surrounding buildings that were also damaged. When news reporters tried to locate the construction and engineering companies to blame, not surprisingly, they found that company had gone out of business. These corporations thrive upon quick construction work that easily generates a large amount of income with little to no governmental intervention.

This is the misfortune that developing nations go through with the goal of rapid expansion both economically and structurally. It is rare, however, that an advanced nation with a high human development rating like Taiwan would encounter such an issue.

While taking a look at Taiwan’s per capita gross domestic product—one of the primary indicators of the well-being of a country’s economy—it comes in at a strong $39,600 as of 2013. Economically, Taiwan’s civil engineering would not have been affected by a lack of economical support. Rather, it may be because of miscalculations and construction violations.

Taiwan has the resources and population necessary to build a stable society. Unfortunately, it is a misconception that advanced governments do not have the obligation to expand instead of remaining stagnant. This is just one of the numerous issues that nations encounter with their political and economic sphere.

Similar cases transpire all over developing countries. To one extreme, we could look back on the destruction of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti—where a magnitude-7.0 earthquake almost destroyed the entire capital of Port-au-Prince. The infrastructure of houses, government buildings and even hospitals was not able to handle earthquakes of such intensity. People were crushed, food became scarce and some were trapped for weeks in the ruins of their own homes.

That is the reality of rushed construction work. It may come at an affordable price at the beginning, but in the long run it could cost more than anticipated if it fails against natural disasters.

The Chinese Lunar New Year—one of the biggest holidays in Taiwan—started on Monday Feb. 8 with about 900,000 homes without power and 400,000 without water. In light of the earthquake disaster wrecking a cherished time for the country’s people, maybe the Taiwanese government will be motivated to hold construction companies responsible in the future.