My first earthquake experience in Taiwan

Moving from Panama to Taiwan involved experiencing new things, such as living alone, learning a new language and enjoying new types of food. However, a few friends I met along the way warned me that Taiwan suffers from frequent earthquakes and typhoons throughout the year, and told me to be careful. Starting from September 2015, I spent around 5 months in Taiwan and experienced only a mild typhoon during the first few weeks I started living in Kaohsiung City, given that the typhoon was stronger in the north side of the country, so I started to believe my friends were exaggerating about this matter.

This feeling didn’t last for much longer, as in February 6th an earthquake with a magnitude of 6.4 shook Taiwan at 3:57 A.M. To be specific, the center of the earthquake was a few kilometers northeast of Pingtung City in southern Taiwan. Naturally, this earthquake was felt pretty strongly in the university dormitory where I live in Kaohsiung.

The day before the earthquake occurred was nothing special; I went to school during the day, hang out with my friends at night, and go to sleep at around midnight. Therefore, I was sleeping when the earthquake occurred early in the morning. I remember I woke up feeling as if someone was shaking the mattress I was sleeping in. The lights were out, so I couldn’t see anything at all, but I clearly heard everything in my desk moving around. Some of my books fell down from my shelf, as well as some spoons and chopsticks I keep in my room. I rushed to turn on the lights in my room, just to realize the earthquake stopped as soon as I pressed the switch.

The earthquake lasted for about 10 seconds. I stood still for a moment, trying to make sure that the ground was not moving anymore and that this was not just a dream. I saw my stuff lying on the ground and suddenly remembered all the warnings my friends told me about the earthquakes in Taiwan and the safety precautions given by the university staff. Unfortunately I was too late to realize this; the earthquake had already stopped and there was no need to seek cover under my desk or run out to an open area to avoid getting hit by falling objects. The only things left for me to do was pick up my stuff and go back to sleep, so I did.

In Panama, we don’t experience earthquake so frequently. In fact, I’m pretty sure this was the strongest earthquake I’ve felt in my life. Later that day I find out that this earthquake caused major damage in other cities in Taiwan. Perhaps the biggest consequence of the earthquake was the collapse of a 17-story residential building in Tainan, where around 115 people had died. This earthquake was not to be taken lightly. I pray for the people who lost their lives and the families who lost their belongings.

The news spread all over the world, and my family and friends back home called me very anxiously to check if I was alright after the earthquake. I told them that I was not hurt or anything, but many other people were heavily affected. I also called my friends and classmates in Kaohsiung, as well as fellow Panamanian students in different cities in Taiwan. They had their own experience with the earthquake, but luckily all of them are alright.

 

This earthquake caught me a little by surprise, since I was half-awake and half-asleep. At first I had no idea what was happening, but later on it was pretty obvious what I had to do. Nobody I know go hurt this time, but we need to be careful in case an even stronger earthquake hits Taiwan. I will definitely be ready for the next one.