‘EVERYTHING WAS IN A MESS’

Meanwhile, other Singaporeans in Taiwan, such as singer and actress Olivia Ong, decided to cut their trips short instead.

The 38-year-old was in Taiwan for her concert on March 31 and had plans to spend time in Taipei till April 8. She managed to snag flight tickets for an earlier flight out of the island.

Recounting the moment the quake hit, Ms Ong, who was in Taipei with her manager and another friend, said: “It was really scary and we were shaking. We were struggling to stay calm.”

“Several vases and picture frames broke, and water leaked from the lights in the bathroom… Everything was in a mess.”

Feeling unsafe staying in the apartment, the trio later found a hotel to stay in for a night and booked the earliest flights they could back to Singapore.

This was not the first time Ms Ong had experienced an earthquake, as she had witnessed a magnitude 4.8 earthquake during her high school years in Japan.

That paled in comparison to the magnitude 7.4 quake in Taipei on Wednesday, she said.

“I knew what to do in an earthquake. My first instinct is to protect my head, avoid standing near windows and open the main door so it would be easier to escape in case the building collapses,” she told TODAY.

For Ms Dorin Poh, 52, a freelance project manager who has lived in Taipei for 22 years, Wednesday’s earthquake was the most severe that she has experienced so far.

“At first I thought it was my husband just turning around in bed, but then I see everything in the house start swaying and the water in my cup was spilling,” she said.

“People were shouting and we heard car alarms trigger. Our neighbours were talking about how scared they were because of the earthquake… The last time we felt anything like this was during 921.”

She was referring to the magnitude 7.3 1999 Jiji earthquake that struck Taiwan on Sept 21, 1999. More than 2,400 people were killed and injuries exceeded 11,300 in what was dubbed one of Taiwan’s worst earthquakes.

Tax consultant Nicole L, who declined to give her surname, likened the earthquake and its aftershocks to the dizzy feeling of disembarking from a cruise ship.

“You feel like you’re still rocking in sea, despite being on land,” said the 28-year-old who was in Taichung with her family.

With the earthquake impacting train services on the island, the family decided to get on a train at 1.30pm, reaching the airport in time for their flight back home at 5.45pm.

The earthquake could be felt throughout the island, including in the southernmost cities far from the epicentre. 

In Tainan, 28-year-old art gallery manager David Loh recalled how he and his friend were also rudely awakened by the earthquake.

They quickly ran out of their hotel room on the 13th floor, which he recalled was “swaying and shaking”.

They took their belongings with them as they fled, and later stayed on the ground floor with other hotel guests.

“Things were much calmer on the ground. But after that, we couldn’t go back to sleep. So, we went for breakfast… because we were on (full) alert,” said the tourist. 

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