11 February 2016

FIVE days after a 6.4-magnitude earthquake hit Tainan, Taiwan, The Salvation Army's Regional Commander, Lieut-Colonel Jennifer Groves, has been able to visit the disaster zone with the Regional Administration Officer (Major Rebecca Hsu) and corps officers Captains Peter Li and Grace Weng.

Lieut-Colonel Groves writes: 'It was a surreal feeling driving through the streets of the city and seeing the street markets conducting business as usual and people going about their day-to-day tasks. However, as the group neared the disaster zone, the reality became more obvious. Workmen were assembling water pipes on the surface of the road to enable the supply of water to be restored to the city. The fire service was stopping at regular intervals along the road to fill plastic containers with water for residents. And then came the disaster zone ...'

The team met with the Chinese Christian Relief Association to discuss the rescue operation thus far. As soon as the disaster happened, the group swung into action to establish a prayer room, for which churches are rostered to maintain prayer coverage each day from 9am to 11pm, with many people also praying in their homes. The association has also established three stations around the disaster area to provide counsel and support to grieving families waiting for their loved ones to be found. The Salvation Army team members were able to speak to people at one of the stations, offering encouragement and support.

'As we got nearer to the disaster zone,' continues the colonel, 'the full impact of Saturday’s earthquake became obvious. With the operation having now moved from rescue to recovery phase, a team could be seen working on the surface of a pile of rubble and shortly after a body was recovered. We felt an atmosphere of quietness and honour as great care was taken to honour the one who had died.'

It was possible for the representatives from The Salvation Army to meet with the director of the government volunteers who was located close to the distribution centre. Donations from many people around the city and nation had provided more than was needed. Discussions soon made it clear that The Salvation Army's help was not needed immediately, but that assistance may be required during the rebuilding stage in the months to come.

Those who were staying at evacuation centres are now either staying with family members or in hotels, and the government will assist these people in finding alternative accommodation.

However, in terms of supporting these many people in rebuilding their lives, the extent of this is yet to be known. Some children have become orphans as a result of this tragedy and the local primary school may be in need of assistance in helping those children who have suffered. The authorities are aware that The Salvation Army stands at the ready to assist in whatever way is needed.

'In terms of the present needs of the city of Tainan, the answer is really very simple,' concludes Lieut-Colonel Groves. 'The people need our prayers. Please pray for the trained and licensed crisis counsellors who will join them in their journey of grief. Please pray that those who are grieving will know comfort, courage and strength at this time. Pray also for those who are still awaiting news of their loved ones.'

Report from the Taiwan Region

Tags: South Pacific and East Asia, Emergencies