Taiwan is testing a new earthquake early warning system which a researcher said on Monday could give the authorities and residents up to 15 more seconds to react in the case of dangerous quakes.
The system is being tested in taipei together with the early warning system being used by Taiwan's Central Weather Bureau, said Wu Yi-min, associate professor of National Taiwan University's Department of Geosciences.
"Hopefully the system would reduce the reaction time by up to 15 seconds depending on the distance of the affected area near the epicentre and therefore could help reduce the earthquake's potential damage," he told AFP.
"That would be a great help for people in escaping from severe quakes."
"The system could be linked to computers and used, for instance, to halt high-speed trains and elevators in high-rise buildings when severe quakes hit," he said.
It may take up to two years to complete the test of the prototype, Wu said, adding that they may sell at 10,000 Taiwan dollars apiece (296 US).
The system is based on a theory jointly presented by Wu and Hiroo Kanamori of the California Institute of Technology's Seismology Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
Taiwan in 1995 built the first early warning system and later updated it. It has responded to a total of 225 tremors with magnitude greater than 4.5 in Taiwan or off its coastline.
The present system is capable of issuing an earthquake report within 20 seconds of its occurrence with magnitudes of up to 6.5.
Taiwan, which lies near the junction of two tectonic plates, is regularly shaken by earthquakes. A 7.6-magnitude quake killed about 2,400 people in September 1999.