August 05, 2014

Kaohsiung August 2014 - Sorrow Hits the Country

Kaohsiung August 2014

Late in the evening on a hot an humid day in August, it happened, the nightmare that no one wants to happen. It much resembled what you see in doomsday Hollywood productions, except this time it was no film, and while it was a nightmare, it was not the kind of nightmare you wake up from, your heard pounding, the cold sweat covering your body, chill running down your spine. This time there was no waking up. This time the nightmare was real...

Some would never wake up from it though. Over 20 people were dead, and up towards 300 injured.

A gas leak under the city, and multiple explosions ripped through the second largest city of Taiwan, the big city in the south, where plenty of chemical companies have their sites. I was not there, not this time, but I have been. Most people come here on their way to Kenting, where they go for surfing and snorkelling, and Kaohsiung is for many merely a stopover, but it is a business centre, and an important city for the whole country.

The explosions tore up a big area, complete roads were ripped open, along the length of the pipelines, and cars were thrown up in the air. Had it not been for the very popular dashboard cameras many people have installed, we would not have had the same footage of some of the explosions that we now have. The most shocking, to me, is from a car standing at the streetlight, talking to someone in Chinese (not Taiwanese, it is clearly Chinese – Mandarin, that is - that is spoken) – and all of a sudden the street in front of him just explodes. It looks like a giant has buried what to him would be merely a string in the street, and now he pulls at it, pulls it out of the road, and the asphalt just bursts open. Except there was no giant and it is not a playground, it is a real street with real people – or at least it was a real street. After the explosions that ripped Kaohsiung apart, there is no longer a street, there is just rubble.

When I first heard about the gas explosions, I stopped breathing for a moment, and in my head I tried to figure out who of my friends could potentially have been in the area. When I realised the likelihood was low, I felt relieved – but only for a second, until the full impact of the disaster hit me, like a fist in the stomach.

This is my beloved Taiwan, and the amazing Taiwanese people who again get struck with disaster. Every human life that is lost in an unnecessary accident is a tragedy to the people close to that person, and to humankind, but because of how strongly I feel for and how strongly I feel connected to the wonderful Taiwanese people, it is even harder to take in.

Taiwan, right on the Ring of Fire, with a lot of seismologic activity, with earthquakes, hit by typhoons (cyclones) on a regular basis, by flooding, by freak rains and landslides. Taiwan, always under political pressure; Taiwan; And all through the disasters and unrest, all through the difficulties, the Taiwanese people keep strong, keep being open, keep showing amazing hospitality and keep being amazing.

If there is any country I pray for and wish peace and strength, it is my Taiwan. My beloved country that adopted me and made me feel welcome. Makes me feel welcome. Every time I come back. A piece of my heart will always be in Taiwan and Taiwan will never leave me.

Taiwan, you are in my thoughts and my prayers!

To read more about the explosions, here are some links:

CNNDozens dead as Taiwan gas explosions tear up streets

The GuardianTaiwan Gas Explosions Kill Dozens

Dagens Nyhter (DN) - News in SwedishMinst 20 döda i gasexplosioner i Taiwan

BBC: Taiwan Gas Blasts Kills at least 25

Bloomberg: Taiwan Blames Chemical Company for Deadly Kaohsiung Explosions

Al Jazeera: Taiwan City Rocked by Deadly Gas Explosions

Focus Taiwan: Multiple Gas Explosions Rock Kaohsiung Streets

Taipei Times: Kaohsiung Rocketed by Underground Blasts

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