Jump to Main content area


FAQ for Earthquake

24. Has Taiwan had any disasters caused by "tsunami" in the past?

According to historical records, there have been six instances of tsunami occurring in Taiwan since 1661. These events have been summarized respectively below:

(1) The German writer, Herport, in his travel diary stated that, "One day in January 1661, at 6 o'clock in the early morning an earthquake started that lasted about 30 minutes. The inhabitants all thought that the land had split. 23 houses collapsed in Anping, and much damage was done to this city. After the big earthquake were still unceasing aftershocks. It felt like sitting in the boat for almost three hours. No one was able to stand properly. In the meantime, three boats entered the port. They also vibrated intensely in the water, and one was nearly turned over. One of the most incredible incidents in this earthquake was that the sea water was once airborne, as if it had been a cloud. After this earthquake, people, regardless of their presence over the sea or on the land during the time of the quake, could still feel the vibrations for 6 weeks afterward".
(2) Wang Bi Chang wrote in the general records of Taiwan County - Zazhi, Xiangyi: "On January 5, 1721, the earthquake happened again. The earthquakes lasted for more than ten days, a few times a day; houses collapsed and it killed the residents". Zhu Yiqui stated in the 5th edition of historical data in Ming and Ch'ing Dynasties: "Due to the earthquakes, the sea water rose and the people prayed to God by singing together". It seemed that the rise of the sea water might be related to the earthquake, and there was the possibility of tsunami.
(3) Taiwan interview book - Xiangyi, Earthquake: "The Teng port was located west to the Feng port (near by what is today Jiadong area in Pingtung). One day around April and May in the year of 1781, the weather was really clear and calm. Suddenly, the sea water roared like thunders. The sea water was greatly evacuated and then rose up about ten feet high. The neighboring villages were flooded. People all climbed up on to the top of the bamboo and thought they might be dead. By several quarters later, the water receded. People called for help on top of the bamboo. For those who were stronger they leaped to the ground and rescued other people. Near by the large farms and the open fields were full of fish and shrimp jumping around; no more than 10 miles away, the village countrymen were trying to catch the fish and shrimp, picking them up with baskets. When the fishermen rafted past the bamboo and looked at the far distance they saw that the houses had been covered by the flood. When the tide was low, there were only a few thatched cottages in sight, nothing more left". As there was no earthquake reported prior to this tsunami, it might have been caused by a remote earthquake.
(4) Taiwan interview book - Xiangyi, Earthquake wrote: "In 1792, as I was going to another town, it was the fifteenth day of the lunar calendar in June. I anchored the boat at Luermen, the ship often tossed but I never took it serious. Suddenly, the winds calmed down, yet the water surged several feet. The boatman said, 'the earthquake is really strong'. It was the same in the ocean. The big boats swung greatly in the boundless dark sea, the earthquake was also felt. It was indeed unusual".
(5) Alvarez wrote in the book Formosa: "On October 16, 1866 around 08:20 in the early morning, there came an earthquake which lasted approximately one minute or so. During the time, the forest, the houses, and the ships at the port all vibrated violently. The river dropped sharply by 3 feet and rose again suddenly; it seemed to flood at any time".
(6) On December 18, 1867, an earthquake struck in north Taiwan. There were 15 aftershocks on the same day. Along the coastal Keelung (Jilongtou, Jinbaoli) area, the mountain leaned, the Earth ruptured, and the entire island vibrated. The houses fell over and there was damage throughout the city of Keelung where the casualties were counted in the hundreds. The sea water flowed out from Keelung Port to the open sea. The port inland sea bottom was exposed and