From subway stations to shopping malls, Taiwan prepares its bomb shelters

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Taiwan is preparing its bomb shelters as rising tensions with China and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine raise fears again of a Chinese attack on the democratic island.

China regards Taiwan as its own territory and has increased military activity in the air and seas around it. Taiwan vows to defend itself and has made strengthening its defenses a priority, with regular military and civil defense drills.

Preparations include designating shelters where people can take cover if Chinese missiles start flying, not in purpose-built bunkers, but in underground spaces like parking garage basements, the subway system and underground shopping malls.

The capital, Taipei, has more than 4,600 such shelters that can house some 12 million people, more than four times its population.

Harmony Wu, 18, was shocked to learn that an underground shopping mall where she and other young people recently rehearsed some dance moves would be turned into a bomb shelter in the event of war.

But he said he could understand why.

“Having a shelter is very necessary. We don’t know when a war may come and they are to keep us safe,” Wu said at the scene near a Taipei subway station.

“War is brutal. We have never experienced it, so we are not prepared,” he said.

Taipei authorities have updated their database of designated shelters, putting their location on a smartphone app and launching a campaign on social media and billboards to make sure people know how to find the nearest one.

The entrances to the shelters are marked with a yellow label, the size of an A4 sheet, with the maximum number of people it can accommodate.

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A senior official from the municipal office in charge of shelters said the events in Europe had brought a renewed sense of urgency.

“Look at the war in Ukraine,” Abercrombie Yang, director of the Office of Building Management, told Reuters.

“There is no guarantee that innocent people will not be beaten,” he said, adding that this is why the public had to be informed.

“All citizens must be aware of the crisis. (…) We need the shelters in case of an attack by the Chinese communists.”

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