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“Thank you for your support from Japan”: Eastern Taiwan Earthquake


In Hualien City, which was severely damaged by the April 3 earthquake in eastern Taiwan, AAR Japan (Association for Aid and Relief, Japan) emergency support team, together with local partner organization Mustard Seed Mission (MSM; Headquarters: Taipei), started distributing supplies and other emergency assistance. AAR team will continue to provide support to disaster survivors through MSM. Hiroaki Nakatsubo reports from the field.

AAR staff and others are speaking

Hearing the latest situation in the affected areas from the MSM disaster response team. (From right) Noriyasu Okayama and Junko Yanagida of AAR (April 7, 2024 at the MSM Activity Center in Hualien, Taiwan)

At the MSM Activity Center in Hualien, which is usually used for workshops and vocational training, a single mother, 48, expressed her anxiety, saying, “Our apartment was safe, but I am afraid of the aftershocks, so I cannot go back there.” Both of her sons, ages 12 and 11, have developmental disorder, and when put in unusual situations like the earthquake, she says, they lose control of their emotions.

The mother and her sons are currently staying at the MSM accommodation, which has become a shelter. She had been working as a cleaner at a local hotel while taking care of her children, but now that tourists are no longer coming to the area because of this earthquake, she is afraid to lose her job. In Hualien, several evacuation centers have been already closed or downsized, but there are still many victims like her who are in a state of emotional shock and do not want to return to their homes.

AAR staff with a woman who received a cardboard box

Junko Yanagida (left) of AAR hands relief supplies to a woman victimized by the disaster (MSM accommodation facility in Hualien)

Supporting Survivors in Cooperation with Local Organizations

MSM, our local partner organization, started social service activities based on the spirit of Christianity in 1952 and has actual results of providing assistance to vulnerable groups such as children, elderly, and indigenous people, as well as emergency relief in times of disaster and disaster prevention/mitigation efforts. AAR is not an NGO with a specific religious background such as Christianity, but we have decided to work with MSM as a trusted local organization.

Supplies are loaded in a train cabin

Two days after the earthquake, the road to Hualien City was closed to traffic, and MSM staff carried relief supplies by train (MSM photo)

AAR immediately delivered an assortment of food and hygiene supplies to the woman, and when Junko Yanagida of the AAR team handed the box to her while talking to her, the woman nodded repeatedly as she accepted it and smiled in Japanese, saying “Arigato (Thank you),” looking a little relieved. It seems that realizing someone cares about them means a lot more than just receiving things for people who are in the midst of post-disaster anxiety.

The distribution of emergency relief supplies has already peaked in the affected areas, but this does not mean that the assistance has gone far enough. We will provide assistance to survivors with problems like this woman, such as psychological support from specialists, help in finding new housing, and other support to help them rebuild their lives according to their individual circumstances.

Heavy machinery at work

The road to one of Taiwan’s most famous tourist attractions was cut off by a cliff collapse. The road was closed a few kilometers from the Hualien City side on April 8

Immediately after the outbreak, MSM also dispatched teams to mountain villages where indigenous people live to deliver relief supplies and conduct interviews to find out what challenges they face. In both urban areas and mountain villages,” says the manager, “although the buildings themselves have not been completely destroyed, there are many houses that are in a mess or in need of some kind of repair, such as water supply.”

Noriyasu Okayama, a member of the AAR team, says, “We entrust MSM, who is well versed in the situation, with the donations from the Japanese people to be used to renovate damaged houses, provide psychological support, and respond to hard-to-reach people such as indigenous people.” AAR will continue to communicate with MSM and carefully follow up on the support activities.

A staff member talks with a woman who received supplies

MSM team visiting an indigenous village in the mountains of Hualien City the day after the earthquake (MSM photo)

A manager of MSM, which is working with a Japanese NGO for the first time, sent us a message saying, “At this difficult time in Taiwan, the warm support we have received from Japan is a testament to our friendship, and we are grateful for our collaboration with AAR and promise to ensure that the donations from the Japanese people will be used to help those affected.”

The Noto Peninsula earthquake that occurred in January this year brought many donations from Taiwan, reminding us once again of the strong bonds between the people of Japan and Taiwan. We believe it is our time to support the Taiwanese people.

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