The magnitude 7.3 earthquake that struck central Taiwan on Sept. 21, 1999 was one the most devastating natural disasters to happen on this island this century.
The earthquake, which struck at 1:47 a.m. when most people were sleeping, violently shook the whole island of Taiwan, and was especially felt in the counties of Taichung, Nantou and Yunlin in central Taiwan. Altogether, the earthquake and thousands of aftershocks killed 2,455 people, injured more than 11,000 and left 50 people missing.
With nearly 40,000 homes destroyed, along with damage to roads, parts of highway and public infrastructure, Taiwan's economy suffered, also because of the impact on the island's manufacturing industry, particularly electronic production lines, due to the disruption to power and water supplies.
Facing the worst natural disaster to Taiwan in this century, the government established a national rescue headquarters immediately after the initial shock. Then President Lee Teng-hui on Sept. 25 issued an emergency decree on the “921 Earthquake.” A post-earthquake reconstruction committee under the Cabinet was established on Sept. 27 to coordinate the rebuilding work, with all reconstruction plans expected to be mapped out in six months, and implemented within five years.
A silver lining of the tragic shock to Taiwan's society was the spontaneous outpouring of affection and sympathy for the victims by people at home and abroad. Volunteers from religious and social groups rushed to the scene to render relief assistance, such as setting up tents as temporary shelters and preparing food for those who had lost their homes. Rescue teams and relief workers from dozens of countries also joined the round-the-clock work.
Ten years after the tragedy struck Taiwan, people are commemorating the day not only with sorrow for those whose lives have been lost, but also with gratitude and pride for the perseverance and strength of Taiwanese people.