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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Autumn Almanac

Fall is here in Taiwan, all two weeks' of it (according to one well-known local blogger), and the weather has been very nice (with the exception of a few days' worth of rain). Today was especially pleasant, and I made good use of the sunshine by going for a walk in the area around the Kuanyin (Guān​yīn) 觀音 temple atop the hill behind the Central Taiwan University of Science and Technology 中台科技大學. The walk up to the temple is a short and easy one, but fortunately there is a network of trails in the area behind the temple, and I was able to make a two-hour loop around the hills.
 
The two little kissing duck figurines were complemented by recorded quacks being played on a continuous loop. Tres Buddhist, non?
 
Whatever the structure in the photo is, its position atop a small hillock made it look like an island fortress

This lizard was quite literally hanging around
 
One thing I sometimes wonder while stomping around in the hills and mountains of central Taiwan is what would I do in the event a large earthquake suddenly struck the area (probably scream like a baby). According to this AFP article from Japan Today, I'll now a few seconds warning before the trails collapse from under my feet:


"Taiwan said Monday it had put into service its first undersea seismic observation system, giving the island life-saving extra seconds or even minutes to brace for earthquakes and tsunamis.
The NT420-million ($14 million/¥1.07 billion) system, built by NEC Corp 日本電気株式会社, consists of equipment ranging from ocean-bottom seismographs to tsunami pressure gauges and even underwater microphones.

'The system gives a much clearer picture of what’s happening. We can even hear the sounds of dolphins swimming by,' Kuo Kai-wen, director of the Seismology Center 地震測報中心, told AFP.

'With the help of this system, we’ll be able to attain an average of 10 seconds’ extra warning if earthquakes hit off the east coast, and an extra 10 minutes to issue tsunami warnings,” he said.

Taiwan is regularly hit by earthquakes, as it lies near the junction of two tectonic plates. In September 1999, a 7.6-magnitude tremor killed around 2,400 people in the deadliest natural disaster in the island’s recent history.

The new alert system is centered around a submarine cable beginning at the township of T'ouch'eng (Tóu​chéng) 頭城 in the northeast of Taiwan and stretching for 45 kilometers (28 miles) into the ocean in a roughly easterly direction.

Nearly 70% of the earthquakes that strike Taiwan hit this area, according to the seismology center.

The system is deployed at a depth of around 300 meters (980 feet), sending real-time digital information to land via submarine optical fiber cable 24 hours a day, NEC said in a statement.

Taiwan began considering an undersea alert system after the Indian Ocean tsunami in late 2004 killed almost a quarter of a million people.

Another undersea earthquake, as powerful as that which caused the 2004 disaster, triggered a tsunami that struck Japan in March, leaving about 22,000 dead or missing.

'The power of the two quakes was pretty much the same, but the much lower toll figure in Japan shows that early warning systems are very effective in the battle against unexpected natural disasters,' Kuo said.
 
Now the workers at those three nuclear power plants on Taiwan's northeast coast (two in operation, the other nearing completion) will have a few more minutes to run for their lives before a massive tsunami 津波 swamps the facilities, already badly damaged from the earlier earthquake, leading to catastrophic meltdowns and the irradiation of the entire island. Time to head to the local いざかや (izakaya, or Japanese-style pub) for a round or two before it all comes to an end, On the Beach-style.

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