UC Berkeley student in Taiwan shares scary experience during deadly earthquake

As crews in Taiwan look for survivors and clean up the mess left behind by the deadly 7.4 magnitude earthquake, a UC Berkeley Law student said she was in Taiwan when it happened.  

Taiwanese American Rachel Lee is spending the spring semester in Taipei working as an intern for a non-profit.

Information from the Taiwan Seismological and Geophysical Data Management showed the seismic waves and how strong the quake was in certain regions. 

In Taipei, 93 miles from the epicenter, people felt the impact of a 5-magnitude quake. 

"I was trying to get up. I couldn't even find my grounding and I was grabbing my phone and it was falling out of my hand," Lee said.

She said her friends have sent her videos of the landslides and rubble all over the island.

"Everything is, like, covered in dust. Even here, all the buildings, all the offices," she described. "It's been a mess. When we got to the office, all the shelves have completely fallen. The kitchen is all a mess."

Each time an aftershock came, she was shaken up all over again.

"Oh, my gosh, there's aftershock right now," she said, bracing for the impact during her interview with KTVU via Zoom.

Dozens are still missing, and at least nine lives have been lost to the devastation, as recovery efforts are underway. 

Here in the Bay Area, many believe we’re due for a big one soon.

At the Berkeley Seismology Lab, scientists study and track the activity across the West Coast. Dr. Angie Lux, a project scientist with the lab, helped develop the earthquake early warning system "Shake Alert."

"We know that earthquakes have happened at certain intervals in the past. Based on those intervals that we've seen in the past, we can say, okay, it's been approximately that long since the last earthquake. So that could happen today. It could happen in 20 years from now," said Lux. 

Lux said what happened in Taiwan is an important reminder to stay ready.

"Make sure you have food and water stored. Make sure you have a plan," she said. "Know what you're going to do when the cell phones go down, and you're not able to contact your loved ones."

Though she doesn’t remember it, Lee said she was there for the last major quake in Taiwan back in 1999. 

"My parents told me that I was barely 2 months old, and they were carrying me down a flight of stairs and out into the streets." 

Overall, Lee and her loved ones are very lucky, but she said she worries for people in indigenous communities who are going to need more support to rebuild. 

This story was reported from Oakland, Calif.