Taiwan to resume street evacuation drills for annual air-raid exercise

Taiwan's defence ministry said it will resume the evacuation exercise across Taiwan in late July. PHOTO: AFP

TAIPEI (REUTERS) - Taiwan will resume mandatory street evacuation drills in its annual air-raid exercise later this month, including stopping traffic and ordering pedestrians to stay indoors, amid stepped up Chinese military manoeuvres around the island.

The resumption of the evacuations, which effectively shuts towns and cities across Taiwan for 30 minutes, is also happening against the backdrop of Russia's invasion of Ukraine which has renewed discussion on the island about how best to react in the event of a Chinese attack.

China claims the democratically-run Taiwan as its territory and seeks reunification with it.

Periodic air-raid drills are required by law in Taiwan, but the 30-minute mandatory street evacuations have been cancelled for the past two years because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The defence ministry said it will resume the evacuation exercise across Taiwan in late July, during which sirens will sound on streets and an air-raid alert to ask people to seek shelter will be sent via text message.

"Only through thorough preparation and practice in peace time can we immediately demonstrate our overall combat capacity and lower the impact on people's lives and property at war time," ministry spokesperson Sun Li-fang told a news briefing on Tuesday (July 12).

Mr Sun said the air-raid drills will take place over a four-day span across Taiwan and will be carried out alongside its main island-wide annual Han Kuang military exercises that week.

In the capital Taipei, sirens will sound at 1.30pm on July 25, during which vehicles will have to move to the side of the road and pedestrians wait indoors. Sirens will sound again 30 minutes later to give the all-clear.

China, which has not ruled out taking Taiwan by force, has stepped up its military activities near the island over the past two years or so, seeking to press it to accept its sovereignty claims.

Chinese fighter jets crossed the median line of the sensitive Taiwan Strait last Friday in what Taipei denounced as provocation.

Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen has made military modernisation her top priority and has repeatedly vowed to defend the island, saying only its people can decide their future.

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