The Sichuan Earthquake: View from Taiwan

Here in Taiwan people are following the news of the horrific Sichuan earthquake with deep sympathy and concern. This is especially true for those of us who lived through the 921 earthquake nearly nine years ago (September 21, 1999), which was also an inland quake, albeit not nearly as devastating. Here are some thoughts being expressed at this time:

1. How are our fellow countrymen doing? As of this posting, two deaths among Taiwanese in Sichuan have been reported, and over one hundred more are still missing. Those who have reestablished contact with friends and loved ones are providing moving first-hand accounts of the suffering, while some who have experience dealing with the aftermaths of earthquakes are doing what they can to help the Sichuan people to cope.

2. What can we do to assist? People remember the dark days in the aftermath of the 921 earthquake, and this has prompted an outpouring of money and relief supplies, including blankets, tents, etc. In Taiwan, the earthquake was especially hard on disadvantaged groups living in the mountains, especially Aborigines. This may also be the case in Sichuan.

3. When can our people go? Some religious and philanthropic groups are already on the way, but Taiwan's experienced crack rescue teams are still waiting for permission to enter stricken areas. Whether or not cross-Strait politics will rear its ugly head remains to be seen.

4. Will this have any impact on the Olympics? Some are also wondering what will happen to the scaled-down torch relay (now doubling as a fund-raising drive), especially when the torch arrives in Chengdu on June 18.

5. What will the long-term repercussions be? It took many long years to rebuild after 921, and the relief and reconstruction efforts put huge pressure on the KMT government. There were also unfortunate instances of inefficiency, and even corruption, with some analysts noting that the earthquake may have been one factor contributing to the KMT's loss of power just six months later.

All in all, people are deeply grieved by the terrible suffering, and hope that conditions will improve as soon as is humanly possible.

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