Taiwan IT production largely unaffected by big quake

Temblors that prompted tsunami warnings as far away as the Philippines ended up doing little damage

pair of powerful earthquakes near Taiwan caused some factories to temporarily halt operations for safety reasons, but mostly left the island's IT production unscathed, companies said Wednesday.

The temblors, which were strong enough to prompt tsunami warnings as far away as the Philippines, ended up doing little damage, and nothing like the 1999 earthquake in Taiwan that reverberated throughout the technology industry because of fears that collapsed factories and power outages would cut off vital components to the global IT supply chain.

The two earthquakes, which struck off the coast of southern Taiwan Tuesday evening, were the strongest for the island in years. The U.S. Geological Survey said the first quake measured a magnitude of 7.1, while Taiwanese officials called it a 6.7. The second quake was a 7.0, according to the USGS.

The island's two largest chip makers, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. Ltd. (TSMC) and United Microelectronics Corp. (UMC), both said their operations were largely unaffected by the earthquakes.

TSMC, the world's largest contract chip maker, said it evacuated all personnel from buildings in its southern Taiwan site as a safety measure, and that its main operations in northern Taiwan were completely unaffected.

A statement from UMC simply said the temblor had "no major impact on operations."

Most Taiwanese companies didn't even bother to write up statements about the incident, a further indication it did little damage despite its being shown on news reports globally. Stock market-listed companies on the island are required to report major events to the exchange as quickly as possible, and few did.

Local news reports in Taiwan said at least 2 people were killed and dozens of others injured by falling debris caused by the quakes.

The 1999 earthquake, by comparison, was a magnitude 7.3 and struck in the mountainous center of the island, the strongest to hit Taiwan in the twentieth century. It caused thousands of buildings to collapse and killed around 2,250 people. The impact of the quake reverberated across the Pacific Ocean to the U.S., where it wreaked havoc on stock markets over fears of a shortage of vital IT components made almost exclusively by Taiwanese companies, such as graphics chips and motherboards.

The fears were largely unfounded. Then, as now, Taiwan's IT industry has survived intact.