Australians in Taiwan during the earthquake recount moments of ‘violent’ shaking and noise

Australians in Taiwan during the earthquake recount moments of ‘violent’ shaking and noise
  • PublishedApril 5, 2024

Western Australian Labor MP Tania Lawrence was on an Easter break holiday with her husband when Taiwan was rocked by its strongest earthquake in 25 years.

The death toll reached 10 late on Thursday with more than a thousand injured from the Wednesday morning quake.

Taiwan’s earthquake monitoring agency said the quake was magnitude-7.2 while the US Geological Survey put it at 7.4.

Ms Lawrence was asleep with her husband at their hotel in Taipei when she said they awoke to a “violent” noise.

“There was this most extraordinary noise and it sounded like distant rolling thunder that was just getting louder and louder,” she told ABC’s Radio Perth Morning show.

“We were like, ‘what the hell is that?’ Then the shaking started and the hotel room was so violently shaking from left to right, we could not stand on our feet.”

A woman stands smiling with green trees blurred out behind her.
Tania Lawrence was in Taiwan on holiday when the earthwuake hit.(ABC News: Keane Bourke)

The noise was so loud she said she could feel it through her body.

“We ended up just having to lie on our bed and just hoping it would pass.”

The moment was so terrifying they thought the whole building would collapse, she said.

After the shaking passed they managed to get to the nearby stairwell.

“The movement was so aggressive, so violent” that she said it felt like being on an aeroplane with turbulence.

Ms Lawrence said what felt like 10 minutes after the first earthquake another one struck while she and her husband were in the stairwell.

In the aftermath, rescuers have been working to free dozens of people trapped while dozens of workers travelling in minibusses to a hotel in a national park were missing.

Late on Thursday, Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs released a statement saying 75 foreign nationals including two Australians had been rescued after being trapped, but two Australians and a Canadian were still missing.

Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs has been approached for comment.

Prepared but unexpected

Brisbanite Peter Dunstan, who now lives in Taichung City in Central Taiwan, roughly 115 kilometres away from where the earthquake hit, had to evacuate from a school where he teaches.

Mr Dunstan teaches at an elementary school and had just begun preparing his lessons for the day when the alarm sounded.

“Everybody hit the deck, under the desks, holding on to the desk,” he said.

“And then [the room] started to really shake, the strongest shaking I’ve ever felt.

“I don’t think the kids were especially terrified because we do practice [drills] all the time.

“It’s more than an annual thing.”

When the shaking stopped, the school evacuated to the running track, the same as during prior practice drills.

While checking the roll to make sure everyone was out, there was another earthquake, Mr Dunstan said.

“The light poles and the basketball hoops started to sway,” he said.

His daughter, Meeya, 7, is in first grade at the same school.

Crowds of kids holding objects like balls and books above their head as they walk onto green grass
Kids at an elementary school in Taiwan evacuated to the sports field after an earthquake.(Supplied: Peter Dunstan)

She recounted her teacher’s rock collection falling down in her classroom as her friends took shelter.

She has been doing earthquake drills for 2.5 years already, since kindergarten.

Mr Dunstan said while it is tragic that many died, he is grateful that the timing of the quake meant mountain roads were not busy.

“If it happened today [on the public holiday] more people would have been in cars, on roads, getting hit by rocks because people go to the mountains on public holidays,” he said.


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