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Horde of earthworms scare in eastern Taiwan

Countless earthworms spotted writhing on track, uncanny scene triggered speculation about bad omens

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Earthworms spotted squirming on track on Nov. 7 shocked local residents.

Earthworms spotted squirming on track on Nov. 7 shocked local residents. (CNA photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Masses of worms spotted squirming on a track in Taitung have shocked locals, sparking speculation that the incident might herald something ominous.

As the staff at Taitung County Stadium arrived on Saturday morning (Nov. 7) for another workday, they were surprised to see the chalk-red track covered with dark, moving patches. As they got closer for a better look, they were horrified to find that the patches were an army of earthworms writhing and crawling over one another.

The uncanny scene raised concern among the superstitious. Some residents worried it was an omen of a natural disaster or some other catastrophe, while others considered it merely the result of the heavy rain from the typhoon that swept past the southern tip of Taiwan last week.

Stadium head Huang Wei-chih (黃偉智) pointed out that worms crawling on the field after a rainy day is nothing new, but he said such a large number of them appearing at the same time is almost unprecedented. It took the staff more than two hours to clear the worms before sports activities could resume there, according to Huang.

Huang said the soil beneath the stadium has long been a worm habitat since it is well conserved and free of chemicals. He believes the sudden, heavy showers brought about by the typhoon had saturated the ground and forced earthworms to the surface for air.

Experts agree. Earthworms absorb oxygen from the soil and expel carbon dioxide through their skin. When the oxygen in the earth is replaced by water, they have no choice but to surface.