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7.4 earthquake hits Taiwan, home to hundreds of Belizeans

International7.4 earthquake hits Taiwan, home to hundreds of Belizeans

Photo: Building in Hualien, Taiwan collapsing due to earthquake. (Photo: The Wall Street Journal)

by Kristen Ku

BELIZE CITY, Wed. Apr. 3, 2024

Cities in Taiwan are recovering after experiencing their most severe earthquake in 25 years, threatening both the local population and the Belizean community living, studying, and working on the island.

The 7.4 magnitude quake struck the eastern coast of Taiwan early Wednesday morning, April 3, leading to a significant rescue operation for those caught in its aftermath.

The earthquake’s epicenter was located merely 18 kilometers south of Hualien City, with the tremors felt strongly as far away as capital Taipei, more than 100 kilometers from the epicenter. The quake resulted in the tragic loss of at least nine lives, leaving 900 individuals injured, and many trapped in the debris of collapsed structures and blocked roadways.

The quake caused extensive damage in Hualien, a region renowned for its views of the Pacific Ocean, but also known for its terrain prone to landslides. Rescue efforts are particularly focused on the Jinwen and Qingshui tunnels, where dozens are reported to be trapped.

In Taipei, the nation’s capital, the impact was also strongly felt with buildings collapsing and residents being evacuated from their homes. The quake disrupted daily life across the island, with power outages and internet disruptions reported in several areas.

Taiwan, known for its scenic beauty and advanced educational institutions, has become a second home to a considerable number of Belizeans. As a result, the incident has brought especial concern for many, as families and friends anxiously await updates on their loved ones residing in the affected areas.

Many Belizeans living in Taiwan have expressed that this is the strongest quake they have experienced, a sentiment felt by both locals and other foreigners residing on the island.

“I was getting ready to leave my apartment, so I was heading to put on my shoe, bending down and then I started feeling, you know, the shaking. And I was like, wait, maybe I need to eat breakfast; and then I realized like, no, this is an earthquake. Then I just like kind of pulled back because I’m on the 19th floor, so there’s nowhere for me to go at this point. I had to just stay where I am,” a Belizean living in Taiwan for 5 years, Melody Wagner told us.

“Since living here I’ve experienced several earthquakes, but I think what was different about this one was that it was a lot longer, and the whole room was rocking back and forth, and things started to fall off the shelves in my living area,” she continued.

She immediately sat down and began texting her friends and group chats, one of the chats including a group of Belizeans living in Northern Taiwan, to see if they were all okay. No one was seriously affected.

Following the earthquake, there were several aftershocks, including a tremor of 6.5 magnitude.

“The duration was different for me, and then there were a lot of tremors following it. And even now we’re on the lookout, because the next two, three to four days, they’re anticipating that we might have other earthquakes following this one,” she added.

Fortunately, there are no known reports of any Belizean losing their life.

The ties between Belize and Taiwan, strengthened through years of friendship and cooperation, are felt more deeply in these moments, with the Prime Minister of Belize, Hon. John Briceño, taking to his social media to express heartfelt words for the country’s current state. “Our thoughts are with the government, people, and our friends of Taiwan,” he shared.

Notably, the earthquake was also felt by China, Japan, the Philippines, and others.

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