Labor MP Tania Lawrence caught in horror 7.2 magnitude Taiwan earthquake

Headshot of Katina Curtis
Katina Curtis
The Nightly
3 Min Read
 7.5 magnitude earthquake in Taiwan
7.5 magnitude earthquake in Taiwan Credit: X formerly Twitter/X formerly Twitter

An Easter getaway quickly turned terrifying for Hasluck MP Tania Lawrence when she and her husband were caught up in the 7.2 magnitude earthquake that rocked Taiwan, killing seven people, injuring hundreds and sparking tsunami warnings for Japan and the Philippines.

It was the strongest tremor to hit the island in at least 25 years and had an estimated depth of 15.5km.

Ms Lawrence was in her ninth-floor hotel room, not far from the epicentre in the eastern county of Hualien when the quake struck just before 8am local time.

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“The room itself was shaking so violently, we tried to get out of our bed to grab our gear and get down the stairwell but we just got thrown back onto our bed, it was so violent,” she told The West Australian from Taiwan.

“We ended up just lying on the bed, looking up at the ceiling and just felt resigned that the building was going to concertina down on us because the movement was so incredibly violent, the whole building was swaying so much.

“We just thought, this is literally probably the last thing we’re going to see — the ceiling.”

Fortunately, the pair escaped unharmed and made it to a stairwell, where they helped other guests as aftershocks rocked the building further.

The hotel’s restaurant was strewn with trashed plates and half-eaten food, and a water feature in the foyer had emptied, Ms Lawrence said.

Aftershocks continued throughout the day, including while the Labor MP was on the phone with this masthead, and transport to leave was limited.

“With all of the aftershocks, people kept diving under the tables — because some of them were not small, they would make the news in their own right — and obviously lots of people are quite schooled in the discipline of taking shelter,” Ms Lawrence said.

More than 700 were injured and about 77 people remained trapped, some in the roughly 26 collapsed buildings.

An Easter getaway quickly turned terrifying for Hasluck MP Tania Lawrence when she and her husband were caught up in the 7.2 magnitude earthquake that rocked Taiwan.
An Easter getaway quickly turned terrifying for Hasluck MP Tania Lawrence when she and her husband were caught up in the 7.2 magnitude earthquake that rocked Taiwan. Credit: Jackson Flindell/The Nightly

Local footage showed buildings at precarious angles following the quake, and Ms Lawrence said it was a testament to strong building design that while many had sustained damage, not all collapsed.

“This is a day to celebrate the unsung heroes that are engineers because they have literally saved lives through engineering design, it can’t be understated just how extraordinary it is the building we’re in has been able to tolerate such significant movement,” she said.

She was also impressed by a system of “presidential alerts” about the earthquake and tsunami warnings that were pushed out to everyone’s mobile phones, even when not using a local network, complete with piercing sirens in some cases.

“We are obviously working (in Australia) to improve our emergency communications for people irrespective of what network they’re on or where they’re from, but I haven’t seen that level of sophistication which actually sets off an alarm on your phone to take cover, to take shelter,” she said.

a leaning building after an earthquake
A powerful, deadly earthquake has rocked Taiwan, leaving buildings in Hualien partially collapsed. Credit: AP
 A 7.5 magnitude earthquake rocked Taiwan.
A 7.5 magnitude earthquake rocked Taiwan. Credit: X formerly Twitter/Supplied

Aftershocks were still being felt north in Taipei, with more than 25 aftershocks registered.

“It was very strong,” Taipei hospital worker Chang Yu-Lin, 60, said. “It felt as if the house was going to topple.”

Chinese State media said the quake was felt in Fujian province, with other reports it was also felt in Shanghai.

More than 87,000 households in Taiwan were still without power, but electricity operator Taipower said the country’s two nuclear power stations were not affected.

Japan’s weather agency said several small tsunami waves reached parts of the southern prefecture of Okinawa, but it later downgraded the warning to an advisory.

 A 7.5 magnitude earthquake rocked Taiwan.
A 7.5 magnitude earthquake rocked Taiwan. Credit: X formerly Twitter/X formerly Twitter

It put the earthquake’s magnitude at 7.7.

The Philippines Seismology Agency also issued a warning for residents in coastal areas of several provinces, urging them to evacuate to higher ground.

Taiwan also issued a tsunami warning but reported no damage from that, and the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Hawaii later said the risk of damaging tsunami waves had passed.

The country’s official central news agency said the quake was the biggest since one of 7.6 magnitude in 1999 that killed about 2400 people and damaged or destroyed 50,000 buildings.

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