Buddhist Compassion Relief Tzu Chi Foundation

Aug 05th
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Home Global Activities Taiwan Po-Wen Yen: I was at the 0402 Train Derailment Incident Site

Po-Wen Yen: I was at the 0402 Train Derailment Incident Site

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"I only have this one daughter!" After losing her only daughter in the 0402 Taroko train derailment incident, the cries of a single mother, heartbroken, echoed in my mind. I was there as the volunteers accompanied her, comforted her, and held her as she wept. At the cries, I had turned my head away, fearing my emotions would get the better of me. As I only have one daughter as well, if ever faced with such a tragedy, would I able to bear such pain and grief?

When the Taroko train derailment occurred, I was in a meeting and had initially underestimated the severity as there were few reported casualties. Quickly, as the number of causalities started to climb, we realized the gravity of the incident and concluded the meeting immediately. As soon as we returned to the office, our disaster coordination unit was already in place, and there were ongoing discussions of logistics and people deployment. Instead of waiting for instructions, everyone took the initiative to act, responded timely, and contacted volunteers to stand by for further assistance.

Within one hour, Tzu Chi established service stations in Renshui, Chongde, Xincheng train stations, and nearby funeral services. May it be a person needing comforting, phones, water, or hot meals, volunteers stationed on-site provided immediate care and coordinated much-needed aid for the injured and their families, emergency personnel, and other staff.

I was moved by the dedication of our volunteers, serving selflessly under the scorching sun. Many volunteers suffered heat stroke from the high temperatures but had continued to provide support after receiving treatment and rest. The unimaginable scenes of tragedy had also left many volunteers in tears, but with resolve, they dried their tears and continued to support those impacted. These scenes of kindness, care, and love shone like bright lights in the darkness.

On the morning of April 5, search and rescue recovered the final causalities from the incident site. A little past one o'clock in the afternoon, Hualien County magistrate Chen-wei Hsu requested Tzu Chi volunteers enter the restricted area to pay last respects to the departed. Delayed by the conditions, volunteers stood on the uneven roads at the tunnel's edge as the ocean wind blew dust and smells from the tunnel for more than two hours. Although having had no lunch or water, no one was discontent as we cherished the circumstances that have allowed us to give our utmost pious blessings. Around three fifteen in the afternoon, the bodies of the departed were carried out slowly; everyone had their palms together, chanting "Boundless Great Love."

The media were very disciplined and respectful, turning their camera away as the departed exited the tunnel. After the bodies were carried into the vehicles, long horns sounded, signaling the end of the search and rescue operation. I was deeply moved as everyone on-site, together, had reverently bowed to show respect to those impacted by this tragic incident.

At the funeral services, I met a young representative from Victim Protection Services, who had received support from Tzu Chi in the past. The representative’s role was to accompany the families to identify their beloved by looking at the photos and remains. At times, I would see the rep. leave the tent to take a breath and release emotions. Even for professionals, the scenes and emotions of the tragedy were a significant shock for the body, mind, and spirit. So, it is vital to have emotional support after a disaster, such as post-traumatic stress disorder counseling. This time, for those with physical needs, be it a survivor or emergency personnel, we had traditional Chinese medicine doctors on-site to provide therapy to relieve their stress and aliments.

Though the search and rescue efforts have come to an end, Tzu Chi will continue to support those through the extended healing journey, from physical injuries to emotional wounds. Our volunteers accompanied the survivors and the families on the return trip home. Subsequently, a local network of volunteers and social workers in these districts, including Taitung, Kaohsiung, Taichung, Taoyuan, and other regions in Taiwan, has also been set up for continual visits and care.

Life is impermanent. When there is such a disaster, I believe that faith or spiritual support is integral for the emotional well-being of all. Throughout this year, Dharma Master Cheng Yen, our founder, talked about the crucial lessons we must learn from these disasters and our need to awaken. These disasters serve as warning signs; to learn to raise our heads toward the heavens to sincerely repent and bow our heads to Mother Nature to express our gratitude.

Incidents end, and time passes, but the emotional trauma for those involved requires long-term recovery and assistance. With love and care, Tzu Chi will continue to support the families out of the dark valley into the light of a new day.

*Mr. Po Wen Yen currently serves as Tzu Chi Foundation's Chief Executive Officer.

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