Giant waves brought by Typhoon Soulik caused extensive damage to Yehliu Ocean World in Yehliu (野柳), New Taipei City (新北市), last weekend, killing more than 500 marine creatures housed in the park’s tanks.
The 23-year-old theme park, located on the northern coast, was hit in the early hours of Saturday by a surge of waves churned up by the storm.
“At about 3am, a huge wave slammed over the park’s seafront levee wall. The wave swept through the parking lot and broke through the glass doors of our front entrance,” park manager Liao Chun-wei (廖俊維) said. “It was like a tsunami. The churning water knocked down two security guards on duty, but luckily they were not seriously injured.”
“It was a scary scene, like something out of a movie,” he added.
The security guards said they thought they were going to die.
They recalled hearing a loud bang when the wave broke the glass doors and looking up to see a half-meter high wave flooding in, sweeping them off their feet.
“The seawater kept advancing, pouring into our aquarium and into marine life cultivation tanks that are kept in the basement,” Liao said.
The tanks’ oxygenation system was shut down by the rushing seawater, starving more than 500 sea animals of oxygen, including fish, eagle rays, blacktip reef sharks, puffer fish, moray eels and snapping turtles, Liao said.
“Fortunately, the 11 dolphins and seven sea lions that are the stars of the park’s regular performances were unharmed,” Liao said.
“Other parts of the building were also damaged by the storm and some pieces of metal sheeting from the observation deck on top of the building were blown away,” he added.
Overall, Liao estimated the park incurred about NT$5 million (US$167,000) in damage.
“When a natural disaster strikes, we have no place to hide, no way to get away from it,” he said.
The park has been shut down indefinitely, pending clean-up efforts and restocking of marine animals.