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Christian missionary in Taiwan describes moment she felt historic earthquake

by Tola Mbakwe
Taiwan earthquake.JPG - Banner image
Taiwan Presidential Office/Handout via REUTERS

A Christian missionary in Taiwan has pleaded for prayers after the country experienced the worst earthquake it’s had in 25 years.

Some buildings tilted at precarious angles in the mountainous county of Hualien on Wednesday morning after the earthquake struck and triggered massive landslides.

On Thursday, the death toll caused by the 7.2 magnitude quake stood at ten people, with 650 trapped under rubble.

Katie Pointing moved to Taiwan with her husband and two children in 2022. They currently serve a local community in Taipei through different church cafes and ministries.

She told Premier about the moment she felt the quake.

“My husband was actually leading the worship that day. It was very strong. We were on the fourth floor of an apartment block, and, it was not only strong, but it lasted a significant length of time,” she said.

The earthquake hit at a depth of 15.5 km, as people were headed for work and school, setting off a tsunami warning for southern Japan and the Philippines that was later lifted.

Rescuers used ladders to help trapped people out of windows. Strong tremors in Taipei forced the subway system to close briefly, although most lines resumed service.

Worried about her children that she had dropped off at school 30 minutes prior, Pointing added: “I was praying in tongues the whole time. I was just quite desperate, just wanting to make sure that our children were okay.

“They have a warning system within the school. So an alarm started going off a few seconds before the shaking actually came. So the children were able to put their heads protection on and get under their tables. And then soon after, went out to the big fields and then waited out there.”

Fire authorities said they have evacuated some 70 people trapped in tunnels near Hualien city.  But they had lost contact with 50 workers aboard four minibuses heading to a hotel in a national park, Taroko Gorge.

Another 80 people are trapped in a mining area, though it was not immediately clear if they were inside a mine.

Meanwhile, on a highway through the mountains, huge boulders from a landslide were strewn across the road. The Fire Bureau of Taichung City Government said it rescued a man in his 50s who was unconscious in a truck.

Pointing said: “As far as Hualien is concerned, I think my worry is that people still haven't been found. I'm fearing that the more lives have been lost than we initially think. And that's why these first few days are critical, especially if they’ve got lack of oxygen and if they haven't got any water”.

She’s asked for Christians to pray that there wouldn’t be any further quakes in the county, and added: “ [Pray] there won't be any further damage done to buildings that are already in a vulnerable state, for peace for the whole country.

“But also, mainly people in Hualien, the most affected area. I can't imagine the strength at which they're feeling the aftershocks and how unnerving that must be. And then pray for the search efforts and that people would be found quickly.”

The official central news agency said the quake was the biggest since one of magnitude 7.6 in 1999 that killed about 2,400 people and damaged or destroyed 50,000 buildings.

Taiwan weather officials ranked Wednesday's quake in Hualien as "Upper 6", or the second-highest level of intensity on a scale ranging from one to seven.

(Additonal reporting from Reuters)

Listen to Premier's interview with Katie Pointing here:

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