Taiwan tourists recall horror of China's earthquake
Hundreds of Taiwan tourists who experienced China's killer earthquake at Chengdu airport found the experience so scary, they thought the end of the world had come, dpa reported.
Hundreds of Taiwan tourists were at the Shuangliu International Airport in Chengdu, capital of Sichuan province, when the earthquake measuring 7.8 on the Richter scale hit Wenchuan County, at 2:30 pm Monday.
Pandemonium broke out at the airport as parked aircraft and the terminal building began to shake. Flights were delayed for eight hours as the control tower's communication systems were disrupted.
Huang Chih-chiang flew back to Kaohsiung, south Taiwan, via Hong Kong on Tuesday with the first group of Taiwan tourists. Huang said his group was among 170 passengers, who were scheduled to leave Chengdu airport for Hong Kong on Monday.
"Our plane was taxiing for take-off when the quake occurred. The jet was jolted as if it was a tiny animal. When we looked out the window, we saw people scuttering all over the airport," he told reporters at the Kaohsiung International Airport.
"We saw buildings and houses outside the airport were shaking like sea wave. Our plane abandoned take-off. We asked to get off the plane, but the pilot told us to remain on the plane. When the plane finally took off at 10:30 pm, all the passengers clapped," he said.
Another group of Taiwan tourists leaving Chengdu arrived at the Taipei International Airport on Tuesday.
"The terminal building was shaking so violently and the sound was so loud, that some of us huddled together to cry," one woman tourist said.
Another tourist, a man, described the experience like "it was the end of the world.
"Some people held onto the columns of the terminal building because they could not stand still. I thought it was the end of the world," he said, adding that the quake in Sichuan was much stronger than the 1999 earthquake in Taiwan which measured 7.3 on the Richter scale and killed 2,400 people.
Hsieh Shu-hua, the tour leader, criticized staff at Chengdu airport for their inability to handle emergencies.
"When the quake struck, the police and customers officers should have evacuated passengers from the terminal building, but they were the first to flee, and locked the passengers inside the terminal building, although later they unlocked the gate," she said.
Some 2,800 Taiwanese tourists in 100 tour groups were in Sichuan province to visit the Yangtse River, the Wolong Panda Reserve and the scenic Jiuzhaigou Valley when the quake hit Wenchuan County.
Taiwan's Tourism Bureau has made contact with most Taiwan tourists, but dozens remain unaccounted for.
The Taiwan government plans to send charter planes to Sichuan to evacuate Taiwan tourists and Sichuan-based Taiwan investors.