TAIPEI (REUTERS) – 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 island.
China considers Taiwan a renegade province to be reunified, by force if necessary. Beijing has increased military activity in the air and seas around it.
Taiwan vows 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 if Chinese missiles start flying in, not in purpose-built bunkers but in underground spaces like basement carparks, the subway system and subterranean shopping centres.
The capital of Taipei has more than 4,600 such shelters that can accommodate about 12 million people, more than four times its population.
Ms Harmony Wu, 18, was surprised to learn that an underground shopping concourse where she and other youngsters were recently rehearsing some dance moves would be turned into an air-raid shelter in the event of war. But she said she could understand why.
“Having shelter is very necessary. We don’t know when a war might come and they are to keep us safe,” Ms Wu said at the venue near a Taipei subway station.
“War is brutal. We’ve never experienced it so we aren’t prepared,” she said.
Taipei officials have been updating their database of designated shelters, putting their whereabouts on a smartphone app and launching a social media and poster campaign to make sure people know how to find their closest ones.
Shelter entrances are marked with a yellow label, about the size of an A4 piece of paper, with the maximum number of people it can take.
A senior official in the city office in charge of the shelters said events in Europe had brought a renewed sense of urgency.
“Look at the war in Ukraine,” Mr Abercrombie Yang, a director of the Building Administration Office, told Reuters.
“There’s no guarantee that the innocent public won’t get hit,” he said, adding that that was why the public had to be informed. “All citizens should have crisis awareness… We need the shelters in the event of an attack by the Chinese communists.”