Utah high school group visiting Taiwan recounts feeling earthquake

Apr 3, 2024, 11:21 PM | Updated: Apr 4, 2024, 7:52 am

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KAOHSIUNG, Taiwan — A high school group from Utah visiting Taiwan is recounting the moments they felt the ground move as a 7.4 magnitude earthquake heavily damaged areas on the eastern side of the island.

That group had just visited the epicenter area a couple of days before the quake. On a dream spring break experience, the group of 20 from Green Canyon High School in Cache Valley has been having the time of their lives during their 10-day trip.

Speaking over Zoom from Kaohsiung, a city on the southwest side of the island, some of the students, three parent chaperones, and their teacher Judy Done listed off the highlights.

“We started off in Taipei, and then we went over to the east side of the island,” Done said. They’ve had the best sushi, shaved ice, and boba tea. They’ve visited beaches and night markets.

“Taiwan is an amazing place, love it here,” Done expressed. Parent chaperone Amy Edwards chimed in, “Wonderful, wonderful people.”

Done, a teacher for the Utah Chinese Dual Immersion Program at the school, said that they visited Toroko Gorge on the east side of Taiwan on Monday, and really enjoyed it.

Pictures from their stop show the beautiful, lush gorge with steep rock walls and overhangs, and turquoise blue waters.

By Wednesday, the students made their way to Kaohsiung. They had gone to a local grocery store when the ground began to shake.

“I was sitting there, and felt like the floor is moving,” said high school junior Zachary Barrus. “Then I looked at, like everybody else was feeling it, too. Some of the items on the walls are starting to shift.”

Parent chaperone Julie Allen said the shaking lasted a few minutes.

“Then we got on our phones, we started to get Amber Alerts of tsunami warning,” Allen said.

The group said the quake wasn’t as strong in Kaohsiung, but they soon realized the devastation it caused where they had just visited — Taroko Gorge — where people died.

Barrus described the gorge as having a huge drop-off next to the road and explained how buses bring lots of tourists into the area.

“I can’t imagine you’re sitting here enjoying it. You know, it could have been us, could have been anybody,” Barrus said. “Didn’t matter where you are; watch out for lots of rocks. That’s on normal days. I can’t even imagine how bad it would have been, you know, earthquake shaking everything.”

They’ve been checking in on friends they’ve made around Taiwan on the trip.

Amy Hyde, one of the parent chaperones, explained how a lot of the kids have exchanged Instagram accounts to keep in touch and have been seeing what some of those kids have been posting.

“The things that they posted that kind of hit home, like, oh my gosh, we met this kid couple days ago. And yeah, it affected them personally,” she said.

“There is a community feeling on the island,” Allen said. “It feels like that people are making sure that everyone’s okay.”

As the group continues the trip, they know they’re taking away a spring break experience they’ll never forget.

“Being here makes you realize it’s real people that it’s happening to, and just that feeling that we are a world community,” Allen said. “These things aren’t just things that happen on the news. They’re affecting real people’s lives.”

Utahns in Taiwan describe Wednesday’s violent earthquake

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Utah high school group visiting Taiwan recounts feeling earthquake