Taiwan is preparing its air-raid shelters as rising tension with China and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine raise new fears about the possibility of a Chinese attack on the democratic island.
China considers Taiwan its territory and has increased military activity in the air and seas around the island. Taiwan has promised to defend itself and has made strengthening its defences a priority, with regular military and civil defence drills.
The preparations include designating shelters where people can take cover from the possibility of Chinese missiles, not in purpose-built bunkers but in underground spaces such as basement car parks, the subway system and subterranean shopping centres.
The capital city, Taipei, has more than 4,600 such shelters that can accommodate some 12 million people, more than four times its population.
Taipei officials have been updating their database of designated shelters, putting their locations on a smartphone app and launching a social media and poster campaign to make sure people know how to find their closest one.
Air-raid shelter entrances are marked with a yellow label, about the size of an A4 piece of paper, which states the maximum number of people each shelter can hold.
Last month, Taiwan held a comprehensive air-raid exercise across the island for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic disrupted regular drills.
Among the instructions given in case of incoming missiles, citizens were told to get down in their basement parking lots and to cover their eyes and ears with their hands while keeping their mouths open, to minimise the impact of blast waves.
Some civil defence advocates say more needs to be done to protect the public.
Authorities are required by law to keep the shelters clean and open but they don’t have to be stocked with supplies like food and water.
Researchers in parliament called in June for shelters to be equipped with emergency supplies.
Enoch Wu, of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party, says members of the public must prepare survival kits to take with them when they seek shelter.
“What’s important is what you bring with you, for people to stay there for a long period of time,” Wu said, citing medical supplies and even tools to build a makeshift toilet.
After a decade of Beijing’s sabre-rattling across the Taiwan Strait that separates the democratic island from China, many people in Taiwan appear resigned to living with the threat of a Chinese invasion.