Erenlai - Items filtered by date: Tuesday, 06 October 2009
Tuesday, 06 October 2009 20:58

The Eye of the Storm

Testimonies from Typhoon Morakot and Hurricane Katrina

It has been four years since the city of New Orleans, in Louisiana, was struck by a very deadly Atlantic Ocean storm. Hurricane Katrina hit the United States in late August 2005, affecting the states of Florida, Mississippi, Alabama, Texas and Louisiana. The natural disaster took nearly two thousands lives, and left many more homeless, with no other option but to relocate. New Orleans suffered the most damage due to a levee break that caused eighty percent of the city to be flooded. However, the entire Gulf Coast of America felt the effects of such an unpredictable and powerful storm.

Fast forward to early August 2009. The city of New Orleans was quiet and calm, free from any impending storm. However, for those living in the far Eastern part of the world, a storm was about to touch down in Asia. Typhoon Morakot hit Taiwan on August seventh, bringing 92-mile per hour winds and dumping 80-inches of rain, primarily to the Central and Southern counties of Taiwan. Such powerful rain resulted in dangerous mudslides and flooding. Within two days, the entire country felt the effects of this storm, watching as villages had to be evacuated, and entire buildings gave way to the mudslides. Despite government rescue efforts, over 600 people died, with 70 others missing.

Two very different places in the world - separated by continents, oceans and time zones - and yet, both so helpless and powerless in the eye of the storm. Certainly language and cultural barriers make for different eyes to witness such disaster, yet the tears shed are the same. The loss and heartache need no translation. The urgency for help and support can be seen and felt worldwide.

For those in Taiwan and the States, the affect of such big storms can help bridge the distance and cultural gaps that would otherwise keep the two countries apart.

In Taipei, watching as their fellow Taiwanese in the South succumbed to the island’s worst rainstorm in 50 years, the emotions were high.

Sandra Chao, from Taipei, noted that the typhoon didn’t cause much damage in her city, but news brought the storm’s damage closer. “What I watched on the TV was horrible. The damage done in southern Taiwan made me really sad while I was watching it.” Chao added that she was stuck in a Los Angeles airport during Hurricane Katrina, so she is very familiar with the storm that hit the Gulf Coast.

Ya-Ting Yang has lived in Taiwan her whole life and was living in Puzih City, Chiayi County when the storm came.

“We didn’t feel the typhoon until the 9th August, in the morning, when the water outside our house just kept rising every minute,” she said. Even with a flat gat to protect the main entrance of her family’s home, through the course of the day, the water continued to rise, breaking a double layer glass door, and flooding the Yang’s basement.

“We managed to move the sofa up to the second floor, but we lost a TV and the whole stereo set. Mainly property loss. We were really lucky.”

However, the waters continued to rise, almost to the second floor of the Yang home’s .

“We couldn’t bare standing there seeing our house being flooded, so we went to bed and hoped that everything would be find the next morning. Luckily, the water started to fade away afterward, and it didn’t get to the second floor,” she said.

Prior to the typhoon, Yang shared that she did feel sympathy for other countries when affected by natural disasters, including Hurricane Katrina in America, which she said was big news in Taiwan.

“It’s hard not feel sympathy when you see people’s lives are being threatened by misfortune,” she said. “But I’d have to say that they never seemed close and real to me. They were mostly just something you see on TV, you frown and sympathize a bit and you move on.”

For Yang, knowing that 10,000 houses were flooded in her city, her sensitivity to those affected by natural disasters has changed. “Even without too much loss, I was greatly shocked. Afterward, I couldn’t stop crying when I saw the news. In Kaohsiung, people’s houses were just buried all of a sudden. There wasn’t even any prevention, everything happened too fast.”

She added that experiencing the typhoon has “made it hard to distance myself from disasters from now on. All these disasters seem so far yet are all so closely connected.”

While news of the typhoon did not receive major airtime in the States, most news outlets did report on the storm and its damage.

Scott Farmer, a student in Taipei, originally from Iowa, noted that he did receive concerned e-mails from friends back home. “I was definitely surprised to find that some of my family was really aware of the Morakot situation a few days after it occurred. I think people know Taiwan is small, but perhaps they don’t really understand the scale.”

Scott was living in the States during Hurricane Katrina, and could draw a small comparison between the two storms. “It just seemed that in both situations, the populace was very unhappy with how the government handled the situation. I don’t understand the ins and outs of either catastrophe, but the people’s reactions were similar in some ways. I felt like people in the states were distrusting of the U.S. government, and they called into question the motives for how things were executed. In Taiwan, I don’t think I felt the same thing.”

For Illinois resident, Jeannie Hayes, her job in broadcast media during Hurricane Katrina has helped her to better understand Typhoon Morakot.

“Hurricane Katrina made me realize that Mother Nature doesn’t play favorites. This kind of thing can happen to anyone, anywhere, at any time. Americans went through so much pain and suffering. It made me realize that people in other countries feel the exact same amount of devastation when it happens to them,” she said. “The world is a small place, and we all need to support each other. Now, when I hear about a disaster on the other side of the world, I stop to think about what those people must be going through.”

 

(Photo by C. Phiv - Penghu Islands, June 2009)

 

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