A magnitude-6.4 earthquake with the most severe tremors reaching as high as magnitude 7, struck northeast of Hualien on Taiwan's east coast at a shallow depth of 10km, killing at more than 15 and injuring nearly 300 people.
The county is home to the headquarters of the Tzu Chi Foundation. In the immediate aftermath, local Tzu Chi volunteers and staff sprang into action and promptly kick-started disaster relief efforts.
Hot Food and Beverage for Quake Survivors
Shortly after the powerful earthquake struck, in the wee hours on 7th February, the nuns at Tzu Chi’s Jing Si Abode were already busy at work. They prepared hot food and beverage, including 300 servings of hot ginger tea, steamed buns and rice, to be supplied to the quake survivors as well as the tireless search and rescue workers in the disaster zone.
The Jing Si Hall in Hualien was also opened to serve as a temporary shelter to house residents affected by the earthquake, and it was well stocked with warm quilts and blankets and other necessities. Tzu Chi volunteers were present to offer care and support to quake-stricken residents.
At the same time, boarding students in the three Tzu Chi schools in Hualien who were shaken awake by violent tremors in the middle of the night were quickly evacuated into the hostel for global Tzu Chi volunteers located near to the Jing Si Hall.
Tzu Chi Medical Center Activates Emergency Measures
At the same time, the Tzu Chi Medical center in Hualien activated its procedures for crisis situations, as a steady stream of injured people came to seek treatment. The ICU rooms with five ICU beds each were opened to meet the overwhelming needs.
Those injured in the earthquake were sent to several hospitals in Hualien, and over 100 casualties were sent to the Tzu Chi Medical Center, which is also a tertiary hospital.
In response to the urgent medical needs after the earthquake, medical personnel from Tzu Chi Medical Center formed mobile medical teams and stationed themselves at two prominent shelters, the indoor stadium in Hualien and Chung Hwa Primary School, to provide medical services on-site.
Tzu Chi volunteers around Hualien leaped into action, to provide care and assistance to the quake survivors. Besides stationing themselves at the Tzu Chi Medical Center, groups of volunteers proceeded to the temporary shelters to offer emotional support and assistance to those affected.
Tzu Chi Taiwan said that it would be the supporting force behind the quake survivors as well as the tireless rescue workers working in the frontlines of the disaster relief, and provide a dedicated helpline to give assistance to those affected.
Refugee Children Pray for Hualien
The strong quake that struck Hualien violently on 6th February in the dead of the night left a massive trail of mayhem and destruction in its wake, including toppled buildings, cracked roads, broken bridges, as well as numerous casualties.
As alarming photos of the disaster plastered headlines around the globe, those overseas who had previously been helped by Tzu Chi, promptly sent their pious blessings and prayers to those affected by the disaster. Some even donated the savings collected in their Bamboo Coin Banks, in return for the love they had received from Tzu Chi Taiwan.
In Sultangazi District, Turkey, on the second day Manahel Primary and Secondary School (set up by Tzu Chi for displaced Syrian refugee children) reopened after the holidays, the students received shocking news about the devastating earthquake. The entire school population of 1,300 people, including teachers and students, prayed for the quake victims in Taiwan during their morning prayers before lessons.
Professor Cuma led the children in the prayers and told them: “A very strong earthquake occurred in Hualien, where the Tzu Chi headquarters are located. As we are very far away from Hualien, there isn’t much we can do except to pray for them!”
As the children closed their eyes in prayers, some of them were moved to tears, and many even brought the Bamboo Coin Banks that Tzu Chi gave them, with the intention to send this token of love back to Taiwan by donating their savings in the coin banks.
A Syrian child said through tears: “I feel very sad for the quake victims in Taiwan. In our religion, we are taught to repay kindness with kindness.”
Malaysia Kindergarteners Send their Blessings to Taiwan
At the Tzu Chi preschool in Johor, Malaysia, the faces of the young students were tinged with sadness as they watched the buildings in Hualien slanting at a precarious angle in the aftermath of the earthquake, on TV. Under the guidance of their teachers, they, too, joined their young hearts in pious prayers.
“We sincerely pray for a world free from disasters and everyone to be safe from suffering,” said the children in unison.
Tears streamed down the cheeks of some of the children as they clasped their hands in prayers. One of the preschoolers expressed her sentiments for the disaster victims: “I feel very sad, because their homes have collapsed, and they have nothing to eat.”
At the Tzu Chi kindergarten in Kepong, Kuala Lumpur, a class of four-year-old children learned about the disaster in Hualien, and were eager to give their support to those affected.
“Last night, when you were sound asleep, did you know what happened to Grandmaster Cheng Yen’s home in Hualien?” asked their teacher.
“(There was an) earthquake!” the gathered children answered loudly together.
“So, what can you little ones do?”
“We will donate our savings in the Bamboo Coin Banks to help them.”
Even though they are still very young, these little ones possess big, loving hearts. They personally made a large greeting card to be sent to the quake victims in Taiwan. Through the ingenious use of their small palms and thumb-prints, the kindergarten children created a picture of a fruitful and heavy-laden apple tree, eager to send their well wishes to earthquake-stricken Hualien in Taiwan.
“We want to give this apple tree to the quake victims, to wish them peace and blessings!” said one of the kids.