Manna Bookstore, founded by members of the PCT

Photo by LIN,YI-YING, PCT ECU Committee member

Taiwan experienced a 7.2 magnitude earthquake followed by aftershocks on April 3. The Presbyterian Church in Taiwan (PCT)—one of The Presbyterian Church in Canada’s oldest church partners—provided an update on the situation and response, asking for continued prayer for those still missing in the aftermath of the earthquake and as the enormous task of recovery begins. The update was shared in a letter sent from the PCT, signed by the Moderator, the Rev. Phàng Chṳ-Fùng (彭志鴻), and PCT General Secretary, the Rev. CHEN Hsin-Liang (陳信良).

In a personal update, the Rev. Paul McLean, who was in Taiwan working with Bible translation teams, reported on April 3 that he was “safe here in Taitung in SE Taiwan. Due south of the epicenter of the earthquake. We felt it around 4 on the Richter scale. Hualien was over 6. That’s where most of the damage took place. I don’t have access to much of the TV coverage. Romans 8:18-30 comes to mind at times like this. Thanks for prayers for those who have suffered loss. God bless you all back home. Peace in Christ our solid Rock, Paul.”

Excerpts from Presbyterian Church in Taiwan letter dated April 9, 2024

Due to the swift action of the international press and social media, our partners worldwide were quickly alerted to the earthquake, which occurred at 07:58 (Taiwan time) on April 3, 2024. As has been widely reported, with a magnitude of 7.2, the earthquake proved to be the strongest the country experienced in a quarter of a century. While the epicentre was on the East side of our country near Hualien, strong effects were felt throughout Taiwan.

Our President, Dr Tsai Ing-Wen, and related Government departments instantly set up a command centre to coordinate the response and assess the extent of the damage in various areas. At the same time, all public transport (HSR, TRA, and MRT train systems) came to an immediate halt and was inspected. We are deeply grateful for the immediate and efficient disaster response teams of our government and those of local NGO bodies.

According to the Taiwan Central Disaster Response Center statistics (information updated as of 7 April), the earthquake victims stood at:

  1. Fatalities (deceased): thirteen (13) persons; Injured 1,140 persons; and six (6) individuals unaccounted for (missing).
  2. Concerning property damage according to the Department of Land and Resources categories of dangerous buildings, there are:
    • 42 red-listed, comprising 32 in Hualien, two (2) in Taipei City, four (4) in New Taipei City, and four (4) in Taoyuan. And a further 70 buildings were yellow listed.
    • Damage to the TRC (Taiwan Railway Corporation) and the MRT system (Mass Rapid Transit) was quickly attended to, and transport services resumed amazingly within a few hours.
    • Landslides and rock falls, particularly in the Taroko Gorge, Hualien, hampered the rescue operations. Taiwan is grateful for the specialized team from Turkey that has come to assist.

Disaster statistics specific to the Presbyterian Church in Taiwan (PCT) church members, congregations and institutions under our jurisdiction are as follows:

  1. Earthquake Victims: Among the Fatalities (deceased), we grieve the passing of
    • one brother – church member of Makotaay congregation, Amis Presbytery
    • one sister – church member of Simma congregation, Central Bunun Presbytery
    • One person remains unaccounted for (missing) who is a member of the Truku congregation, Truku Presbytery
  2. Persons who sustained injuries
    • Truku Presbytery: one person from Ciwang Church, one person from Truku Church, one person from Skadang Church, and one person from Tpuqu Church
    • Paiwan Presbytery: one person from Shiwen Village, Chunri Township
  3. Damage to church property (continue under assessment)
    • Truku Presbytery: three chapels and five houses
    • Eastern Presbytery: two chapels and one house
    • Taipei Presbytery: one house
    • Yushan Theological College and Seminary: Several buildings on campus sustained damage (including dorms and classrooms), as well as “cracked” roads/walkways.
  4. PCT Disaster Response and Relief operations
    • The first response and service projects included condolences to the deceased and injured believers, maintenance of water and electricity, and drinking water distribution in Fushi Village.
    • After evaluating the situation our General Assembly has not set up a permanent disaster relief command center in the epicenter. PCT is serving in partnership and cooperation with the local presbytery and congregations to handle church-related disaster relief ministry case by case. Further assessments are, of course, needed before addressing the damage caused to buildings and long-term response.

As a nation, we know that the recent earthquake could well have resulted in a far worse outcome, given its magnitude. We are grateful beyond measure and thank the Lord that this was not the case.

Finally, the PCT wishes to express and reiterate our heartfelt gratitude for the many letters and messages of concern and solidarity received from our partners and friends around the world.

From experiences of dealing with natural disasters, we can all attest to how a few minutes of major trauma requires months and years of rehabilitation, recovery and rebuilding of lives, land, and property. We ask that you continue to keep all the victims, their families and communities and the frontline responders in your prayers and for the healing of the land of our precious country, Taiwan.