Tzu Chi Charity Foundation CEO Powen Yen checks in on the welfare of older adults at the temporary shelter setup at the Jhong Hua Elementary School. Photo/Tzusong Chen
Tzu Chi Charity Foundation CEO Powen Yen checks in on the welfare of older adults at the temporary shelter setup at the Jhong Hua Elementary School. Photo/Tzusong Chen

CREDIT By Tzu Chi Charity Foundation

During the morning rush hour on April 3, 2024, a powerful earthquake, measuring 7.4 magnitude, struck near the eastern coast of Taiwan. Its epicenter was just 25 kilometers southeast of the city of Hualien, which is coincidentally the home of the Tzu Chi Foundation’s global headquarters. Occurring at a shallow depth of 15.5 km, significant tremors were felt throughout Taiwan.

By the next morning, 9 people were reported dead and another 1,038 had been injured. 93 people are left stranded and the whereabouts of 52 individuals still remain unclear. After having worked round-the-clock, rescue teams took a brief break in the early hours of April 4 only to resume at 6:00 am local time.

Shijia Zhang, section chief of the Water Resources Section of the Hualien County Government Economic Affairs Department expects that demolition of the tilted Uranus building will be carried out once an investigation is complete by the District Prosecutors Office. Photo/Rulu Bai

According to Shijia Zhang, Section Chief of the Water Resources Section of the Hualien County Government’s Economic Affairs Department, blocks are currently being piled to temporarily support the tilted Uranus building (the ten-story tower seen widely in photos). On the ground, teams are preparing for the possibility of the building’s collapse and are working to minimize both the damage and risk to human life.

Having overseen several disaster relief projects by now, Zhang said that with the continuation of the previous night’s aftershocks, current monitoring indicates that the displacement of the Uranus building is not major and that it will not affect the adjacent hotel and restaurant.

Tzu Chi volunteers set up the Uranus Building Disaster Service Center to distribute earthquake relief funds and provide follow-up care. Photo/Tzu Chi Charity Foundation
A Tzu Chi volunteer offers emotional comfort to a survivor of the tragedy. Photo/Tzu Chi Charity Foundation

By 7:00 am, Tzu Chi established the Uranus Building Disaster Service Center. Located adjacent to the Dong Jing Temple, Tzu Chi volunteers began distributing earthquake relief funds to seventy-five households. Care recipients also received letters of condolence and consolation from Tzu Chi’s founder, Dharma Master Cheng Yen, as well as care packages filled with helpful supplies.

Tzu Chi volunteers prepare breakfast for people in the disaster area to stay nourished. Photo/Chengyu Hsu
In an orderly fashion, Tzu Chi volunteers prepare lunch boxes for survivors at the Concentric Circle Restaurant. Photo/Siyi Ruan

Continuing their support from the previous day, volunteers prepared and delivered hot meals, beds, partitions, and blankets to survivors taking shelter at a temporary facility set up at the gymnasium of the Jhong Hua Elementary School. The Hualien Tzu Chi catering team, receiving instructions from the earthquake response center, also prepared and distributed hot meals to rescue workers, too. While offering practical nourishment, it showed gratitude and encouragement to those on the frontlines of this disaster.

Tzu Chi Foundation CEO Powen Yen (front center), Deputy CEO Jiduo Chang (in white shirt), and Deputy CEO Dr. Rey-Sheng Her (left) visited the Jhong Hua Elementary School to survey the shelter setup for earthquake survivors. Photo Chengyu Hsu

Among those affected was an 88-year-old man residing on the 6th floor of the Uranus Building. Having endured previous earthquakes, he remained composed during the recent tremor. After being safely rescued, he received medical treatment for injuries to his right foot and was relocated to the Jhong Hua Elementary School for temporary shelter.

With partitions, survivors feel more at ease with the privacy and discretion they allow at such a vulnerable moment (and especially at night). Dharma Masters, too, help in setting them up at Jhong Hua Elementary School. Photo/Chengyu Hsu
A group of Tzu Chi volunteers documents the case of an 88-year-old survivor, hoping to understand his experience and determine how to best help him in his recovery. Photo/Mingdao Luo

Upon learning of his whereabouts, Tzu Chi volunteers visited him to distribute relief funds and assess his needs with the assistance of social workers, aiming to secure suitable housing for him.

Other NGOs also provide support to impacted residents. Photo/Chengyu Hsu

In these efforts, Tzu Chi is among other NGOs working to provide support to earthquake survivors. Working side by side, they share a common goal: to bring compassion and relief after disaster, as quickly as possible.

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