The Chi-Chi earthquake provides dramatic evidence of the damaging effects of surface ground deformation to buildings, lifelines, and other facilities. Much of the building damage is associated with surface faulting and folding along the Chelungpu thrust fault. Our detailed surveying at representative sites along the fault shows that the rupture commonly is a relatively simple 1- to 4-m-high scarp with minor hanging-wall deformation and localized (but severe) uplift, folding, and graben formation along the scarp crest. For individual scarps, the width of deformation is about 10 to 20 times the net vertical displacement. Distributed secondary faulting and folding on the hanging wall occurred as much as 350 m from the primary fault. Near the northern end of the rupture, growth of a pre-existing 1-km-wide late Quaternary anticline produced severe ground rupture along multiple thrusts and backthrusts but only minor tilting between fault strands.
The pattern of building damage coincides with the pattern of geologic deformation, with severe damage along large fault scarps and lesser but still significant damage attributable to distributed secondary surface deformation on the hanging wall. Rupture-related building damage on the footwall occurred next to the prerupture fault trace, where the hanging wall bulldozed onto the footwall. The width of this damage zone is related to the local horizontal shortening along the fault and generally is less than 10 m. Building zonation along reverse faults should account for this pattern of surface deformation. In addition, buildings with massive foundations locally influenced the style and location of near-surface deformation, producing variations in fault strike or accentuated secondary deformation on the hanging wall.