The earthquake that occurred in Taiwan on 21 September 1999 killed >2,000 people and severely injured many survivors. Despite the large scale and sizeable impact of the event, a complete overview of its consequences and the causes of the inadequate rescue and treatment efforts is limited in the literature. This review examines the way different groups coped with the tragedy and points out the major mistakes made during the process. The effectiveness of Taiwan's emergency preparedness and disaster response system after the earthquake was analyzed.
Problems encountered included: (1) an ineffective command center; (2) poor communication; (3) lack of cooperation between the civil government and the military; (4) delayed prehospital care; (5) overloading of hospitals beyond capacity; (6) inadequate staffing; and (7) mismanaged public health measures.
The Taiwan Chi-Chi Earthquake experience demonstrates that precise disaster planning, the establishment of one designated central command, improved cooperation between central and local authorities, modern rescue equipment used by trained disaster specialists, rapid prehospital care, and medical personnel availability, as well earthquake-resistant buildings and infrastructure, are all necessary in order to improve disaster responses.