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44th issue by ISU on July 2016

 

Taiwan being located in the Pacific Ring of Fire, where 90% of the earthquakes occur, is known to have a common seismic activity, so natural disaster awareness is one of the biggest concerns all of us have when deciding to come to Taiwan caused by its reputation. Internet references, like Wikipedia, don’t help to ease our concerns, highlighting that Taiwan Island is prone to both Typhoons and Earthquakes due to its geographical location.  And now let’s add the fact that back home we grew watching the news about the earthquakes and following Tsunamis in Indonesia and Japan that occurred in the last decade.

Back home, in Honduras, earthquakes are far from common, being experienced only a couple which epicenters were hundreds of miles away from my city. That basically made me a complete ignorant about seismic safety since we are not taught contingency measures in case of earthquakes. Run? Hide bellow the table? Look for the emergency exit maybe? Tall buildings are a relatively a new thing in my small country therefore in case of emergency the only exit always was the door where we entered. Being said this, Taiwan have taught all of us about emergency measures for all the possible contingencies including Earthquakes and we can see how there is a systematized response to these cases where everyone is supposed to know what to do in case of emergency and the buildings have the proper equipment.

 

I am currently living in Taipei the capital city of Taiwan. This city is located in the northern part of this beautiful Island also called Formosa. I have been living here for more than one and a half year now. My first earthquake experience was on Monday morning, the 21st of April 2015. It was while I was taking one of my weekly Chinese lessons, when all of sudden it seemed as if the classroom floor had dropped away from where it had been a second ago and everything around us started shaking and swaying as if it was intoxicated. I felt like my chair was a boat floating in water. The tables and the doors, as well as whiteboard and projector were all shaking and made rattling noise. All my classmates were ladies and thus they were all very scared and attempted to stand up in preparation to run away. I was also considering to follow suit.

But our Chinese teacher seemed less scared, composed, calm, and unmoved by this sudden and abnormal situation. I drew my own conclusion that it’s maybe because he has been living in this Island for over two decades now, thus he knew better than us how to react towards such natural disasters that are not a rare incident in Taiwan. Even though the ladies tried to stand up and run away, but it was impossible to stand still because the solid, firm classroom ground has become a precarious suspension bridge in which one second you be standing there and the next you would be falling onto an uneven ground below. Before, I thought I understood what fear was but it was not until experiencing this moment that I begun to comprehend what true fear is. After noticing our uneasiness and attempts of standing up in readiness to flee the scene, our teacher warned us not to leave our place and told us to calm down while assuring us that everything will be alright soon. Not long, maybe say 2 to 3 minutes the shaking and swaying of our classroom building stopped. There were no visible damages and hence we resumed our Chinese lesson again. However, messages flocked our cellphones from friends and colleagues reporting how they experienced and survived the quake. According to the MailOnline website, this was the most powerful earthquake to ever hit the capital city, as it was measuring 6.3 in magnitude (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/newTaiwanese-earthquake.html).

MY First Earthquake Experience In Taiwan_Jevon Mckenzie_NTHU

Life in Taiwan has exposed me to various ‘first time experiences’. I’m currently in the 2nd and final year of my MBA program at National Tsing Hua University, and some of my experiences thus far have been filled with joy and happiness while others have been filled with horror and fright.  Ultimately, regardless of the polarity of my experiences in Taiwan, even when it was a horrifying earthquake, there was always a ‘life lesson’ to be learnt.

 

I am from the beautiful country of Belize, which is the only English Speaking in Central America. It is also the only country to be considered as both a part of Central America and the Caribbean. Belize is well known for its many tourist attractions, which among others include many Maya ruins and coral reefs; home of the most famous and enigmatic crystal skull (discovered in 1924), as well as home of the world’s largest living Barrier reef. There are various similarities between Belize and Taiwan. Both countries are very multicultural; therefore, personalities vary throughout the country. Belize is a Tropical country; therefore, the sub-tropical climate of Taiwan is similar to the climate of Belize during the summer. In contrast however, Belize does not get as cold as Taiwan does during the winter.

 

Oh my God, why is Cherry turning her body so strongly? She cannot sleep? It is just 3:00 am in the morning, please stop turning your body, I cannot sleep, you know?” It was a cool night in the end of September, inside my room. I felt I was in a dark, quiet atmosphere. Something had woken me up and I was talking to myself when my bed started shaking. “But wait, Cherry is not big. She cannot be moving her body so strongly and her bed doesn’t really connect with my bed. How can….??? Wait, something is wrong here”. I tried to analyze and realized that the shaking was not because my roommate was moving her body. “Oh god, don’t tell me this is an earthquake. What should I do? Should I wake everyone up and do something? Or should I just lie still on my bed?” I felt so scared, worried and confused; but then I decided to stay still to see what would happen; at the same time, I was hoping I was safe. I was also thinking about my family and friends and worried that I was not going to see them again. It was shaking for a few minutes

 

The earthquake that I can remember to being my first earthquake experience in Taiwan, was the one that occurred on 04/11/2016 in Yi-Lan. I remembered being a spectator of an exposition delivered in my Corporate Law class, our class is given in the 9th floor of the TSMC building of NTHU, so as you can imagine we felt quite a shock during our class. The exposition was about the topic chosen for the final paper, so my classmate was really expressing herself during her presentation time, when all of the sudden we feel the shake in the classroom and some girls even giggled a little scream out of the anxiety of the moment. At the beginning of the event, you just think to yourself: “hey, It feels like someone is shaking the classroom!” it is later that you realize what is really happening, an earthquake.

Natural Disasters are an inevitable evil that we are all familiar with, a phenomenon that divides and unites a nation at the same time. I, being Born and raised in Belize, a country which coast is completely surrounded by the Caribbean Sea, am familiar with my fair share of disasters, especially from June to November. I have experienced tropical storms and in some cases tropical waves and most often I’ve experienced hurricanes, but an earthquake is something that I have never experienced before coming to Taiwan. Earthquakes have always been a hind thought for me, something I merely read about or see on the news, but experiencing it is completely different. When I first arrived there were a couple of typhoons, which were both exciting and scary because the winds were quite strong but at the same time we didn’t have classes, which was a bonus. When I experienced my first earthquake, it was sheer fright.  Firstly I was in a deep sleep so it took me quite some time to recognize what was going on, and when I had I was bolting for the exit, loaded with all the things I could carry with me on the way out. Before I could make my great escape my roommates intercepted and assured me that it was not that serious, and before I could contest them the shaking stopped. I felt stupid standing in the doorway in my pajamas, with my computer and some clothes, surely if it were a more serious earthquake I would not have been prepared! So my roommates thoughtfully sat me down and gave me the dos and don’ts for earthquake emergencies. 

By Ingrid Elvir Oyuela

After almost two years living in this beautiful island, I must admit, there are still things that can't stop surprising me: The variety of food, the friendliness of Taiwanese people, the unpredictable nature of its weather and oh so many peculiarities of this fascinating culture. This place has truly become my second home and most important, a place that holds too many stories and memories now. Speaking of the uncountable things that make Taiwan a unique place, I can recall one that struck me by surprise: my very first earthquake experience.

Believe it or not, this event didn't happen months after my arrival to Taiwan. It was on my second week here. I hadn't even recovered from my jetlag, and was finally getting used to sleeping on a bunk bed. It was quite late (02:00am), when all of a sudden I woke up to a very long and strong shake. I was extremely scared and surprised, since in Honduras we rarely (or never) have earthquakes. My roommate back then from El Salvador, stared at me in awe as I swept of my tears and tried to pull myself together. She asked me what was wrong with me, since it was just a small tremor.

Coming from Nicaragua, a country known as the “Land of lakes and volcanoes”, earthquakes were not new to me. In my country, earthquakes are as common as in Taiwan; however, that doesn’t mean they are less scary. Whether or not I get scared and run under the table depends on the magnitude and length of the shake. Fortunately, that moment hasn`t come yet, and I really hope it never will. I do wish, though, that somehow I am prepared for it and will have the best possible reaction.

Since I have experienced many earthquakes before coming to Taiwan the first ones I felt here were not too scary as they were small. But living on the 5th floor for the first time, it was a bit surprising to feel the whole building swinging with the shake. I would describe it as similar to being at sea when waves move your boat from side to side. The first strong earthquake I felt in Taiwan caught me off guard one morning during a Chinese class. I was in the class with other 4 classmates when, unannounced as it is by nature, we felt that our chairs started to swing. We looked at each other and noticed that the curtains, the doors and everything else that was hanging were swinging too. At that moment we realized that it was a strong and long earthquake. We said out loud “It’s shaking!” and looked at our teacher – hoping for a reaction or instructions for leaving the room or for doing something, but he remained totally calm and just kept on. We told him to stop because “it is shaking so strong!” but, still calm, he just said “This is normal in Taiwan”.

As I walked out of my dorm, I glanced at the deep blue skies decorated with few clouds hanging freely being shoved around by the wind almost in a playful manner.  I gave up on the thought of living as a cloud as I saw them struggling to survive due to the tenacious sun mercilessly casting its rays on them. I took a deep breath and was suddenly surprised by its freshness and texture. Yes, freshness! In a city like Hsinchu where the air pollution dominates year round having fresh air is almost impossible. The possibility that I have adapted to the city and that indeed it was just less industrial smokey fog lingering in the city caught me. Nevertheless, I enjoyed every step towards my lab convinced that it was going to be a beautiful productive day.

The old colored boxed room suddenly made me forget what a nice day it was outside as I became enslaved by my data mining project. I lost the notion of time reading, coding and predicting patterns of online shoppers. The project has grown increasingly complex with pressure mounting specially trying to keep above the average expert in the Kaggle competition. Without any warning the alarm went off! A loud warning in Mandarin kept repeating forcing students stepped out of their labs. I soon learned that it was merely a regular fire drill. Everyone got back into their respective labs but still unable to get back into the same momentum before being rudely interrupted.

Mockingly, the building started to swing slowly and suddenly turned into aggressive shunts. I was convinced that it was an earthquake. I became fully aware I was in 7th floor yet I felt safe. Without any alarms or anyone rushing outside students continued watching videos, reading, coding, playing games. It seems everyone had adapted to earthquakes and accepted them as part of their life.

It's no secret that Taiwan experiences periodical earthquakes from time to time, and with some being more violent than others; it’s just a matter of when. On February 7th just a little before 4 pm when everyone was asleep, a 6.4 magnitude earthquake struck the northeast City of Pingtung. The earthquake caused widespread damage and resulted in approximately 116 deaths following the collapse of a residential building in Tainan.

At the time when the earthquake struck, like most many others, I was in bed; fast asleep in a deep dream. I don’t consider myself a heavy sleeper, but following a busy schedule on that particular day, nothing could have come between me and my bed; so I thought. I was the only person staying in the room at the time, as my two roommates had left for Taipei on that same weekend.  At first I thought nothing of it being that I was having a good dream, hiking the mountains near the National Pingtung University of Science and Technology (NPUST) with friends. It wasn’t until I heard the loud banging of our closet doors and the toppling of some empty water bottles that was on my desk top that I frantically awoke from my sleep; trying to digest the situation. I thought I understood the meaning of fear. Sadly, it wasn’t until that moment that I hadn’t even come close to comprehending its true meaning. Without thinking twice, I found the courage to jump out; yes I said ‘jump out’ of my 2m high bunk and ran to the window. I was and am still currently living on the first floor of a 4 story high dorm building and the last thing on my mind at the time was for a rescue team to be pulling my body out of rubbles. At this point in time I might be giving the impression that I must be exaggerating a bit, but honestly, I was scared to hell!