April 21st, 2024

Two Canadians stranded by Taiwan earthquake, says firefighting agency

By The Canadian Press on April 3, 2024.

Rescue workers stand near the site of a leaning building in the aftermath of an earthquake in Hualien, eastern Taiwan, on Wednesday, April 3, 2024. Taiwan's strongest earthquake in a quarter century rocked the island during the morning rush hour Wednesday, damaging buildings and highways. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Johnson Lai

TAIPEI, Taiwan – Taiwan’s firefighting service says two Canadians were among a group of people stranded by rock slides in a gorge after the island’s strongest earthquake in 25 years.

The agency says in an overnight Facebook post that the Canadians were among 12 people stuck on a trail in Taroko National Park, a renowned hiking destination, and rescue efforts were ongoing.

Other Canadians caught in the quake are describing scenes of chaos and violent shaking that shifted furniture and almost knocked people off their feet during the tremor that struck during the Wednesday morning rush hour.

Vancouver-based community events organizer Charlie Wu says his rented 12th-floor apartment in the Taiwanese capital of Taipei shook for “what seemed like minutes,” knocking bottles and plates out of their closed cabinets.

Tech firm employee Yvonne Chen, who splits her time between Burnaby, B.C., and Taipei, says shaking at her 10th-floor apartment shifted a large cabinet 15 centimetres off its base, and she had to crouch to prevent herself from falling over.

Taiwan’s Central Emergency Operations Centre says the earthquake centred off Hualien County, about 150 kilometres south of Taipei, reached a magnitude of 7.2, leaving at least nine dead, 946 injured and 152 stranded in its aftermath.

Global Affairs Canada says in a statement that any Canadians in need of aid should contact them immediately, adding that there are 5,518 registered Canadian citizens in Taiwan.

Wu says the main quake was followed by a number of aftershocks in the hours afterwards.

“It’s like getting off the cruise ship,” Wu says of his mental state after the quake. “There’s that feeling (that) you’re not really grounded. It’s like everything is moving and you’re looking at the curtain (to see) if it’s moving or just you in your head, that you’re moving.

“I still feel the occasional (aftershock), quick and much smaller than what it was this morning. But, again, when you were on top of (the) 12th floor, it’s easily felt, and I don’t know if I’m going to be able to sleep well with that feeling in my head.”

Chen says the quake was mild when it started and she continued to get ready for her commute to work, until the shaking grew more powerful.

“It got to a point where I couldn’t stand, and I had to crouch down,” she says, estimating the shaking to have lasted about a minute.

Both Chen and Wu say the shaking was comparable to the 1999 earthquake in Taiwan that was 7.3 in magnitude, killed more than 2,400 people and destroyed about 52,000 buildings.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Canada had reached out to Taiwanese officials and was ready to provide support if needed.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 3, 2024.

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