The 1999 Chi-Chi earthquake was caused by rupture of the Chelungpu fault, one of the most prominent active thrust faults of Taiwan. This largest of Taiwan's historical fault ruptures broke the surface for over 90 km at the western base of the rugged mountain range. A short right-lateral tear extended southwestward from the southern end of the Chelungpu fault, and a complex assemblage of shallow folds and faults ran northeastward from the northern end. Vertical offsets averaged about 2 m along the southern half of the Chelungpu fault and about 4 m along the northern half, and offsets of 5 to 7 m were typical along the northern part of the major thrust. The sinuous nature of the surface trace is consistent with seismographic data that indicate a dip of about 30°. The 1999 rupture draws attention to the fact that this active fault system is highly segmented and that this segmentation influences the characteristics of seismic ruptures. Active faults to the south, north, and west of the Chelungpu fault have distinctly different characteristics. Faults to the south and north broke the surface during earthquakes in 1906 and 1935. The active Changhua fault to the west, a blind thrust similar in length to the Chelungpu, has not ruptured in the historical period and should be considered a prime candidate for generating a future earthquake.

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