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A scary shaky moment: Palauan businessman recounts earthquake experience in Taiwan

Updated: Apr 9

By Pacific Island Times News Staff

It was one of those occurrences that could give you a big scare and prompt you to pause and reflect on your life, Palauan businessman Alan Seid said, recounting his trembling experience in Taiwan.

Seid was packing up to get ready for his flight back to Palau when his phone beeped. It was a frightfully familiar alert.

”I recognized the sound. I had the same experience when I was in Texas in January. There was a flood alert,” the former senator said.

Alan Seid

This time it was an earthquake warning, advising everyone to "Please be calm," Seid said. “As soon as I read it, the building started shaking."

Seid was on a business trip in Taiwan when a 7.4 magnitude earthquake hit before 8 a.m. April 3.

He arrived in Taipei on March 30 and checked in at the Caesar Park Hotel, a 20-story building across the train station, where he stayed throughout his trip.

He was on the 18th floor.

“I was getting ready to come down and catch an Uber or taxi to the airport when the earthquake hit. It started shaking. The building was swaying,” Seid recalled.

The U.S. Geological Survey said this week's earthquake was Taiwan’s most powerful in 25 years. It rocked the entire island, causing buildings to tilt at dangerous angles. At least 13 were reportedly killed and more than a thousand were injured.

“I thought it was going to be over pretty soon but it was quite long. It was kind of scary, to say the least,” Seid said. “It was the longest earthquake I've ever experienced in my life.”


He estimated the shaking to have lasted 30 to 45 seconds.


“I opened the door and looked out the hallway. A lot of the people on my floor were also coming out,” Seid said. “I looked out the window and saw the main train station swaying. Other buildings were swaying back and forth.”


The tremor lulled but it was followed by several aftershocks. “I was concerned about the age of the building and whether it could withstand this movement back and forth,” he said.


Caesar Park Hotel is a 50-year-old building.


When he thought it was all over, Seid hurried downstairs. In his panic, he left his phone in the hotel room. “So I had to go back to the room to get my phone. When I was coming back to the elevator, another one of those aftershocks started shaking the building again.”


Hualien City was the earthquake's epicenter. While no major damage to buildings and infrastructure was visible in Taipei, Seid said the city was in total disarray and the people were still reeling from the fright.


“The trains stopped operating, so people were grabbing taxis and Uber, which was impossible to get. It got very pricey,” Seid said.


What amazed him though was the resilience of Taiwan’s skyscrapers. “It very impressive that they could tolerate that strong earthquake,” said Seid, a real-estate developer who built Palasia Hotel.


Seid is back home in Koror, with a fresh perspective on life. “It was a scary experience,” he said. “It gives you a message that life is very valuable. We have to be cognizant of the value of life because an earthquake like that can just take it away.”

The Taiwan government said it immediately activated the Central Emergency Operations Center and launched various emergency preparedness, rescue and relief efforts in conjunction with local governments.


"The nation's armed forces are also cooperating to meet the needs of local governments, provide assistance, and ensure the safety of people's lives and property," according to a statement from the government.

Meanwhile, Palau President Surangel S. Whipps Jr. said Palauan students studying in Taiwan and patients seeking medical treatments in the Asian country were reported safe.

Whipps spoke to David Orrukem, Palau’s ambassador to Taiwan, immediately after the earthquake, according to the president's office.

"President Whipps is reaching out to President Tsai Ing-Wen, on behalf of the people of Palau, to express our thoughts and prayers for all the people of Taiwan during this challenging time," the president's office said.

On Guam, Speaker Tina Muna Barnes sent her condolences to Taiwan on behalf of the 37th Guam Legislature and the people of Guam,


 With an abiding admiration for Taiwan's resilience and fortitude, I am confident in the ability of the Taiwanese people to overcome the challenges posed by this calamity,” Muna Barnes said in a letter Chia-Ping Liu, director general Taipei Economic and Cultural Office on Guam.

“It is my sincere hope that our continued collaboration and mutual support will pave the way for a swift recovery and a brighter future for all,” she added.


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