Taiwanese family in Tahoe | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Taiwanese family in Tahoe

When Skyland residents Michelle Fan and her husband heard of the massive earthquake that shook their homeland, there was little they could do but worry and pray for the safety of their families and friends.

When Fan finally was able to contact her sister, who lives in Miao-Li, a central city of Taiwan, hundreds of people had been killed by the 7.6 magnitude quake that struck in the early hours of Sept. 21.

“We were so scared and nervous, it was horrible,” Fan said. “When I finally spoke with my sister, she told us more than 100 people had already died from the earthquake – three of whom she knew. And she could not reach any of my brothers.”

The entire family was safe. However power outages had made telephone contact impossible for a several hours.

Although Fan now knows that her family and friends are OK and that none suffered irreparable damage to their homes or businesses, she said the disaster was extremely traumatic.

For her 72-year-old mother, Hsimei Ku, visiting Fan from Taiwan, the quake brought back an all-too-familiar sense of terror.

“After my mom got done talking to my sister that day, she was shivering and shaking,” Fan said of Ku, who does not speak English. “She was terrified because she lived through an earthquake as a child that flattened her town. All the huts collapsed and they couldn’t move into their home again for three months.”

Unfortunately the government’s unpreparedness added to the magnitude of the calamity, Fan said, as well as to the death toll.

“The government always pays attention to the east of the island, because that’s where quakes happen most often. According to the newspapers, the government was not expecting an earthquake to happen in central Taiwan,” Fan said. “One of my brothers said you can’t even imagine what a mess it is, simply because no one was prepared. Especially not the government.”

Also, there would have been far less death and damage, she said, if children had received the kind of earthquake training taught in San Francisco schools.

“It’s horrible, but true,” she said. “They just weren’t prepared. They did not know what to do.”

Fan said she has no plans to move back to Taiwan, where she lived for 25 years before moving to the United States.

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