Monday, February 18

Student families safe following earthquake in Taiwan

The 6.4-magnitude earthquake that shook Tainan, Taiwan, last Saturday left many UCLA students worried about family members who live in the city.

A 16-story residential building that collapsed during the earthquake left 59 people dead and 76 missing, according to the New York Times. About 330 people survived the collapse, but many are still trapped underneath its rubble.

Wendy Hung, a second-year molecular, cell and developmental biology student who has family in Taiwan, said she felt scared after reading about the earthquake on the news, but could not get a hold of her parents because of the time difference.

“You never really think that something would happen to you or your family,” she said.

Sara Lin, president of the Taiwanese American Union and a fourth-year applied linguistics student, said she is glad the Office of the Dean of Students offered students condolences in an email and reminded them the UCLA Counseling and Psychological Services was available.

Lin added she doesn’t know why this earthquake has garnered international attention, because Taiwan experiences many earthquakes on a regular basis.

Jessica Lin, a fourth-year geophysics student who also has family members in Tainan, said she was grateful her family was safe.

“I feel so awful when I see those photos of collapsed buildings and injured people,” she said. “I’m pretty lucky everyone I know is okay.”

Lin, who also studies fault strengths and earthquakes, said she expects Taiwan to have a lot of earthquakes, but she is still taken aback by it. She added she thinks an early warning earthquake system, which can alert people of a distant or nearby earthquake, could have saved lives, time and money.

“There’s so much we can do with a one-minute warning,” she said. “It’s definitely worth having, especially in a place like California.”

Jonathan Stewart, a professor in civil and environmental engineering who studies earthquakes, said he thinks creating a larger seismic safety program that includes warnings about distant earthquakes would be more effective than implementing only early warning systems.

Stewart said he thinks an earthquake of a similar magnitude could occur at UCLA, given its proximity to the Santa Monica fault and because California experiences shallow crustal earthquakes like the one that occurred in Tainan.

He said he thinks most structures on campus are new and properly reinforced, so it is unlikely such a catastrophic collapse would happen on campus. Stewart added students should store large bottles of water and refrain from walking barefoot indoors to prevent injuries, in case of an earthquake.

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