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Taiwan Earthquake

by Ritchie B. Tongo

Taiwan, authorities said. epa/Ritchie B. Tongo

Rescuers continue their search for survivors on the third day from a collapsed building following the 06 February 6.4 magnitude earthquake, in Tainan City, southern Taiwan, 08 February 2016. epa/Ritchie B. Tongo

On the night of February 5, I was preparing my bag for a trip the next morning to pick up an accrediation pass. I set my alarm for 4:00 A.M. and did my usual routine when waking up: check my e-mails. I received one from my colleague David Chang informing me that an earthquake had just hit Tainan, southern Taiwan, at around 3:57 A.M.  I got another one from a friend with a photo showing a collapsed building with a lot of casualties, also in that area. Since the earthquake happened very early and most people were asleep, the extent of damage it resulted in was still unknown. This prompted me to change my plan for the day, and immediately left for Tainan to see the situation personally. My first option was to travel by train or airplane but the services were not operational due to possible aftershocks. So I decided to take a cab, my third option, even if Tainan is four (4) hours away from where I was, Taipei. I was there by 10:00 A.M.

Rescuers search for survivors from a collapsed building following a 6.4 magnitude earthquake in Tainan City, southern Taiwan, 07 February 2016. epa/Ritchie B. Tongo

Rescuers search for survivors from a collapsed building following a 6.4 magnitude earthquake in Tainan City, southern Taiwan, 07 February 2016. epa/Ritchie B. Tongo

In Tainan, men in uniforms and civilians worked together rescuing those trapped in the collapsed 17-storey apartment building. According to news reports, it was the only high-rise building that had toppled as a result of the earthquake. Taiwan government has strict building standards which is the reason why not many structures were damaged.

Rescuers lift a victim as they continue to search for survivors from a collapsed building following a 6.4 magnitude earthquake struck the area in Tainan City, south Taiwan, Taiwan, 06 February 2016. At least eight people, including an infant, were killed and hundreds injured when a 6.4-magnitude earthquake struck southern Taiwan early 06 February 2016, authorities said. A 17-storey apartment building collapsed in Tainan City's Yungkang district. It was said to be home to about 250 people in 96 households, according to the Central Emergency Operation Center. epa/Ritchie B. Tongo

Rescuers lift a victim as they continue to search for survivors from a collapsed building following a 6.4 magnitude earthquake struck the area in Tainan City, south Taiwan, Taiwan, 06 February 2016. epa/Ritchie B. Tongo

That rescuers found survivors could be inferred by people suddenly becoming noisy and in a hurry. On the other hand, retrieved bodies were placed in body bags. The rescue and retrieval operations continued until morning the following day because “it took one hour to complete a search for just one household and two hours just to go forward”, said a rescuer. As for me, I decided to stay in an area near the rescuers’ command post thinking that if there would be aftershocks, I could easily respond.

City, southern Taiwan, 07 February 2016. epa/Ritchie B. Tongo

Earthquake affected residents queue for water supplies following a 6.4 magnitude earthquake in Tainan City, southern Taiwan, 07 February 2016. epa/Ritchie B. Tongo

The next morning which was February 7, people were queuing to fill their containers with water. Others were waiting for updates and news if their relatives were rescued. This disaster caused a major heartache especially to the Chinese community since the Chinese New Year, a time where they were supposed to feast and be merry, was to be celebrated on February 8. Although the general atmosphere was gloomy, the Taiwanese people started moving forward facing reality and having a positive outlook. Some men and women gave bottled drinking water and food to other people while others went to temple to pray.

Rescuers continue their search for survivors from a collapsed building on the third day following the early 06 February 6.4 magnitude earthquake, in Tainan City, southern Taiwan, 08 February 2016. More than 100 people are still missing two days after a 6.4-magnitude earthquake killed at least 37 in southern Taiwan, while three people were rescued alive, authorities said. epa/Ritchie B. Tongo

Rescuers continue their search for survivors from a collapsed building on the third day following the early 06 February 6.4 magnitude earthquake, in Tainan City, southern Taiwan, 08 February 2016. epa/Ritchie B. Tongo

Experiencing a calamity such as this is a very difficult situation to be in. Especially in the case of earthquakes, scientists still cannot predict the precise time when they will occur. Looking at the brighter side, however, I witnessed how disasters can make strangers come closer together like families and I have seen this in Tainan. People did what they could to help; I saw men digging in rubbles and women handing out food and water. They did their share to help right away without putting themselves and their family’s safety first.

A relative (C), holding a photo of a victim, who is believed to be still trapped under a collapsed 17-storey apartment building, is assisted as she faints while approaching the site, on the fifth day of searching for survivors, in Tainan City, southern Taiwan, 10 February 2016. More than 100 people are still missing five days after a 6.4-magnitude earthquake that killed at least 41 in southern Taiwan. epa/Ritchie B. Tongo

A relative (C), holding a photo of a victim, who is believed to be still trapped under a collapsed 17-storey apartment building, is assisted as she faints while approaching the site, on the fifth day of searching for survivors, in Tainan City, southern Taiwan, 10 February 2016. epa/Ritchie B. Tongo

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