Travelers describe feeling Taiwan's earthquake before boarding flight to San Francisco

ByLena Howland, Tim Johns KGO logo
Thursday, April 4, 2024
Travelers describe feeling Taiwan's earthquake before flight to SF
Travelers from Taiwan who landed at SFO Wednesday morning describe feeling the deadly 7.4 earthquake.

SAN FRANCISCO INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT, Calif. (KGO) -- Just before 8 a.m. Wednesday morning, a deadly 7.4 earthquake hit Taiwan, injuring more than 1,000 people and trapping hundreds more.

It was the strongest reported quake on the island in 25 years.

United flight attendants based out of Taipei, Tina Chuang and Karen Wu, said they were on a bus on the way to Taiwan's largest international airport when it happened.

"We thought it was the driver driving a little too fast, because we're like, wait, we're kind of doing this way, I'm going, 'Is everything OK?'" Wu said. "And then we got the alert, it was an earthquake!"

MORE: Taiwan's strongest earthquake in nearly 25 years damages buildings, leaving 9 dead, hundreds injured

"And we called family immediately and they're fine, we're very fortunate they're all fine," Chuang said.

The earthquake's epicenter was about 125 miles away from the airport but the flight crews still saw significant damage.

"At the airport, throughout, I'm sure there's cracks in the ceiling because there's dripping water and then all of the duty free wines and everything just fell on the floor, so yeah, it was pretty bad," Wu said.

Virnda Mehta was waiting to board a flight to San Francisco solo when the quake hit.

"Everybody was like crouching down, I had a security guard next to me so he kind of showed me the procedure of what to do and then after about 30 seconds or so, he was like 'It's OK, you can get up, you can walk,"' Mehta said.

VIDEO: YouTuber living in Taiwan describes powerful 7.4 earthquake

YouTuber Prozzie says the powerful 7.4 earthquake shook his apartment in Taichung City, Taiwan every 20 minutes.

She says she didn't realize what was happening until she noticed a swaying chandelier.

"It was pretty strong, I think that's the strongest one I've ever felt so I knew it was going to be at least a six or a seven or something," she said. "Everything was shaking quite a bit, like you could tell, you see dust falling off from the ceiling, like particles and stuff."

Although some travelers said this quake came as no surprise to them.

"I wasn't surprised," Wu said. "Because it's quite common, it's kind of like living in San Francisco and L.A. you know, you just don't know when is the next big one, but you know and then there's like several aftershocks."

There are still a little more than a dozen flights expected to land at the San Francisco International Airport from Taiwan later Wednesday afternoon and evening. So far, most of those appear to still be running on time.

Impacts of massive Taiwan earthquake felt in the Bay Area

The impact of the powerful earthquake in Taiwan has been felt in the Bay Area as the Taiwanese American community is keen to help family and friends.

As the island recovers, Scott Lai, the director general of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in San Francisco says his government wants to assure everyone heading to Taiwan that things are under control.

"Taiwan continues to provide travelers a safe environment with facilities that are ready and secure," Lai said.

The impact of the earthquake has been felt far beyond East Asia.

Marie Chuang is a city councilmember in Hillsborough. She says many in the Taiwanese American community here in the Bay Area are keen to help family and friends back at home.

"As time goes on, we will be receiving more of the reports of the damage in Taiwan. And then to see where the needs are," she said.

One of the organizations helping is the Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation - a Taiwanese nonprofit with local branches in California.

Their office's CEO telling us, they're already collecting donations as their volunteers help those most in need on the ground in Taiwan.

"An earthquake with this kind of scale, mental health, trauma - it's so critical. So they need to have somebody to hold on, to talk to," said CEO Debra Boudreaux.

Because with powerful after shocks expected for days to come, director general Lai says his people appreciate the connection and friendship between Taiwan and the Bay Area.

"Taipei and San Francisco are sister cities for a long time, and we do have very good connections with San Francisco," Lai said.

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