Journalist Catherine Vuylsteke was in Taiwan during an earthquake: ‘Huge shocks throughout the building’

Journalist Catherine Vuylsteke was in Taiwan during an earthquake: ‘Huge shocks throughout the building’
Journalist Catherine Vuylsteke was in Taiwan during an earthquake: ‘Huge shocks throughout the building’

What did you experience yourself from the earthquake?

“I was still sleeping and woke up this morning when the earthquake started just before 8 am. Huge shocks went through the entire building and that lasted quite a long time, certainly longer than half a minute. I had never experienced anything like that before, it was a very strange sensation.

“You immediately receive a warning message, but you don’t really know what to do. The natural reflex is of course to run away, but you are on the eighth floor of a building here. You can go down, but it is actually unsafe there, because what if a building collapses and you end up covered in debris?

“After that there were a lot of aftershocks, but they have now passed for several hours here.”

What is the situation there now? Taipei is about 120 kilometers from the more severely affected Hualien, but is there much damage to be seen there?

“Here in the capital you mainly see it now because there are many ambulances and fire trucks driving around. I just went for a long walk here, and you don’t really see any real damage in Taipei.

“For example, in photos of other apartments I see how entire bookcases have fallen over. Fortunately, everything in our rented apartment was well secured and nothing could have fallen over. What wasn’t really secured in the bathroom, for example, we found in the sink, but that’s not too bad.”

Are they actually prepared for earthquakes there?

“Earthquakes are common in Taiwan, and the country is well prepared. This is the worst earthquake in Taiwan since 1999. In Jiji, more than 2,000 people were killed and 50,000 buildings were destroyed. There are now 7 dead and 700 injured, but lessons have been learned from that. New measures are introduced very regularly to improve safety and the country is also preparing well, for example in 2022 there was another major exercise. There are indeed better safety standards and controls, including for the construction of new buildings. They must be better equipped, you can also see from the photos that the buildings have not completely collapsed.”

What impact does the earthquake still have on daily life?

“Some chip and semiconductor manufacturers (main economic activity of Taiwan, tvdw) have temporarily halted their production and evacuated employees. That is of course normal after these types of disasters. Foxconn, for example, has not done that and there is some discussion about that.

“There are currently also people without electricity and public transport that is interrupted. I personally don’t see much of that for the time being and it is unclear how long that will last. Here in Taipei it is mainly the internet connection that is occasionally interrupted. That is of course logical after such shocks of 7.2 on the Richter scale, and it remains striking that you see so little damage. I actually think worse has been avoided here.”

Catherine Vuylsteke: ‘New measures are introduced very regularly in Taiwan to improve safety and the country also prepares well for earthquakes, for example in 2022 there was a major exercise.’Image RV

The article is in Dutch

Tags: Journalist Catherine Vuylsteke Taiwan earthquake Huge shocks building


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