Two Canadians stranded by Taiwan earthquake, fire agency says

TAIPEI, Taiwan – Canadian English professor Jonathan McGill said the shaking from Taiwan’s biggest earthquake in 25 years was so strong he thought his apartment building might collapse.

McGill, a former Ottawa resident who has been living in Hsinchu, Taiwan, for the past seven years, described Wednesday’s earthquake as something he had never felt before, with his ceiling fan swinging about 30 centimeters off its axis.

“Today was the first time I thought: What is basically the breaking point of a building?” he said. “Because you’re not really supposed to do that.

“Obviously, they are built to withstand some type of shaking. But it was going pretty bad from side to side, and it really makes you start to wonder: will it get to the point where it will fall?

Taiwan’s Central Emergency Operations Center said the earthquake was centered off Hualien County, about 150 kilometers south of Taipei, and reached a magnitude of 7.2, leaving at least nine dead, 946 injured and 152 injured. stranded

Local firefighters said in a Facebook post that two Canadians were among a group of 12 people stranded by rockfalls on a trail in Taroko National Park, a famous hiking destination, and that rescue efforts were ongoing.

Canadians in Taiwan described scenes of chaos and violent shaking that moved furniture and nearly toppled people during the earthquake that struck during Wednesday morning rush hour.

Charlie Wu, a Vancouver-based community events organizer, said his rented apartment on the 12th floor in Taipei, the Taiwanese capital, shook for “what seemed like minutes,” knocking bottles and plates from its closed cabinets.

Wu said he could also hear the sounds of glass breaking in several other units in the building, and a series of subsequent loud bangs knocked several items he had placed on shelves to the floor again.

“It’s like getting off the cruise ship,” Wu said of his mental state after the earthquake. “There is that feeling that you are 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’s moving.

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

Yvonne Chen, a technology company employee who splits her time between Burnaby, British Columbia, and Taipei, said the shaking in her 10th-floor apartment displaced a large cabinet 15 centimeters from its base and she had to crouch to avoid falling.

Chen said the earthquake was mild when it started and that he continued preparing for his commute until the shaking became more powerful.

“It got to a point where I couldn’t stand up and had to crouch down,” he said in an interview in Mandarin, estimating the shaking lasted about a minute.

Chen said he tried to go to work afterwards, but Taipei’s transit rail systems were down, while his office building lost power and suffered a burst pipe, causing flooding on the first floor.

“Even now, sitting in a chair, I’m nervous and I feel like things are moving all the time,” she said. “I have to ask myself: Am I being too sensitive? Am I imagining it?”

Both Chen and Wu said the tremor was comparable to the 1999 Taiwan earthquake, which had a magnitude of 7.3, killed more than 2,400 people and destroyed about 52,000 buildings.

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

Angel Liu, director general of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office, Taiwan’s de facto consulate in Vancouver, said she spent a restless night after being overwhelmed with videos and images of extensive infrastructure damage on her social media.

“Taiwan is located in an area with frequent earthquakes, so we have a lot of experience in dealing with these kinds of natural disasters,” Liu said. “But it is still very difficult to recover in a short time.

“Hopefully the best thing is that the loss of life is minimal,” Liu said, crossing his fingers.

Several Canadian leaders expressed support for Taiwan, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and British Columbia Premier David Eby; The latter took to social media platform X to express his condolences.

“I have been informed that there is no threat to British Columbia,” Eby said in the post, referring to a possible tsunami. “But I know that many with relatives in Taiwan are worried about the safety of their loved ones.”

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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