Vincentian students recount ‘terrifying’ earthquake that rocked Taiwan
From Left: Kemarlie Durrant and Rimaria Burnett
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April 5, 2024

Vincentian students recount ‘terrifying’ earthquake that rocked Taiwan

Vincentian students studying at various universities in Taiwan had believed they were accustomed to the numerous earthquakes occurring in the east Asian country. However, a massive earthquake which occurred on Wednesday, April, 3, 2024 has left close to a dozen people dead, hundreds stranded and the students traumatized.

The 7.4 magnitude quake, the strongest recorded in the last 25 years, shook the island’s east coast, hitting at 7:58 a.m. local time, 18 kilometers south of Hualien city, on the eastern coast and at a depth of 34.8 kilometers, according to the US Geological Survey (USGS).

The students, Kemarlie Durrant and Rimaria Burnett, who spoke to SEARCHLIGHT, said they were, at the time, asleep when the quake struck. They were awoken to their dormitory room, furniture, and appliances shaking.

They said they have grown to expect frequent earthquakes in Taiwan with many small tremors being recorded annually. The frequent quakes are attributed by seismologists to tension from two tectonic plates interacting, the Philippine Sea Plate and the Eurasian Plate, which lead to sudden releases in the form of earthquakes.

“Throughout my stay thus far, I have experienced at least four other slight earthquakes but none of them could be compared to this one. When I woke up to the shaking I was in shock and I panicked as I never felt an earthquake that big. Also, I know that after a powerful earthquake they are usually followed by smaller tremors. However, I was a bit worried by the amount of aftershocks that followed. At one point I thought they were never ending… I am still in disbelief, as earthquakes are so unpredictable,” said Durrant, who is a first year Journalism student at the Ming Chuan University Taipei Campus.

“Coming from a small island that has earthquakes very rarely, it was quite traumatic to experience an earthquake of this magnitude. Having lived in Taiwan for almost three years, I have experienced quite a few earthquakes, but this one was truly terrifying,” Burnett, a Management Science and Finance student at the National Dong Hua University related.

She said the earthquake caused a fire on campus in one of the engineering buildings. Firefighters had to be called in to get the blaze under control and were able to do so around 11:00 that night.

Taiwan has a vibrant community of Vincentian students on scholarships offered by Taiwan as part of bilateral relations with St Vincent and the Grenadines.

The Embassy of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines in the R.O.C. (Taiwan) released a statement informing the public that the Vincentians residing in Taiwan “have been accounted for and are safe thus far”.

Both students said that emergency drills are a regular part of campus life considering the frequency of quakes, and warnings are usually issued before one is expected to hit. However, they both said no warnings were given before Wednesday’s quake. Media outlets in Taiwan have said that the Central Weather Administration (CWA) will begin to issue

the nation’s emergency alert on a larger scale after many people complained of not receiving warning messages by text.

The confirmed death toll from Wednesday’s quake had reached 10 persons up to the time of going to press, with 11 people missing, more than 1,000 injured, and over 705 in need of rescue, authorities said.

Since the earthquake hit, 29 aftershocks greater than a magnitude of 4.0 near the epicenter have been recorded.

There has been widespread damage, with video footage showing buildings leaning, bridges shaking and landslides. Dozens of people were reported trapped in various tunnels in Hualien County.

Taiwan’s central government has allocated US$9.37 million to recovery efforts.