Sat. May 25th, 2024

Relief efforts are underway in Hualien, Taiwan, following the devastating 7.4 magnitude earthquake that struck on Wednesday, marking the region’s most powerful seismic event in twenty-five years. Families affected by the quake have found refuge in makeshift tents set up at an elementary school in the heart of Hualien, where relief workers are providing essential supplies such as blankets, stuffed toys, and baby formula.

Among those seeking shelter is Hendri Sutrisno, a 30-year-old professor at Dong Hwa University, who, along with his wife and two-month-old baby, opted to stay in one of the tents provided. Having experienced over 300 aftershocks since the initial quake, Sutrisno expressed concerns about evacuating safely, particularly with an infant in tow, prompting the decision to remain in the designated area.

Rescue operations are underway across Hualien County, with a focus on reaching approximately 600 individuals either trapped in tunnels or isolated in remote locations. Notably, many are stranded in the network of tunnels that traverse the region’s mountainous terrain, including individuals in a hotel near Taroko National Park and workers in a tunnel cut off by landslides on the main highway.

Dramatic footage captured by drones reveals individuals trapped in mountain tunnels, waving for assistance amidst damaged vehicles. Meanwhile, sections of the Su Hua highway remain closed due to extensive landslides, including one that claimed the lives of two drivers. The aftermath of the earthquake is evident, with road tunnels blocked by massive rocks and cliffs still enveloped in dust and debris.

The earthquake’s toll includes at least ten fatalities and over 1,060 injuries, although the severity of these injuries remains unspecified by authorities. In Hualien’s urban center, efforts are underway to stabilize structurally compromised buildings, such as the Uranus building, which now leans at a precarious 45-degree angle.

For residents like 59-year-old Chen Hsiu-ying, whose home was in the Uranus building, the quake has left emotional scars. Reflecting on the experience, Chen expressed gratitude for narrowly avoiding disaster but remains anxious about retrieving personal belongings from the unstable structure.

As the rescue operation continues and communities grapple with the aftermath, families like Hendri Sutrisno’s are hopeful for a return to normalcy. Despite uncertainties about the safety of their homes, affected individuals remain resilient, seeking solace and support in the midst of uncertainty.

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