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Taiwan's 'Pokémon Go Grandpa' flooded with earthquake warnings on 72 phones

Pokémon Go Grandpa spends nearly 25 minutes turning off text alerts on all 72 phones

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Chen (center) being interviewed by reporters about earthquake alerts. (Photo from member of public)

Chen (center) being interviewed by reporters about earthquake alerts. (Photo from member of public)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Taiwan's famous "Pokémon Go Grandpa" found himself overwhelmed by a cacophony of emergency messages blaring from his armada of smartphones during Sunday's earthquake.

Since 2018, retired Feng Shui master Chen San-yuan (陳三元) has risen to fame as "Pokémon Go Grandpa" for the fleet of smartphones he has attached to his bicycle on his never-ending quest for new Pokémon. Last year, he was spotted with 64 phones attached to his bike, with slots for a total of 72.

Unfortunately for Chen, a powerful magnitude 6.1 which struck early Sunday morning (Feb. 7) 85.1 kilometers east of Yilan County Hall, led to a technical glitch in the Central Weather Bureau's earthquake warning system. A total of 14 duplicate text messages and accompanying warning sirens were fired off to millions of phones across Taiwan.

When the quake struck, Chen, who lives in New Taipei City's Tucheng District, said that he happened to be out on a late-night Pokémon hunt when all 72 of his phones suddenly began frenetically vibrating and wailing. He frantically began closing out the alerts, one phone at a time.

Chen said that it took him nearly 25 minutes to turn off all the notifications on his legion of cell phones, reported TVBS. He said that he did not feel any shaking in his area or see any evidence of damage, so he continued to play for a while before heading back home to go to sleep and dream of his next Pokémon quest.

Taiwan's 'Pokémon Go Grandpa' flooded with earthquake warnings on 72 phones
Chen hunting for elusive Pokémon from his bike. (PTT photos)

Many Taiwan residents reported receiving over a dozen emergency text messages on their phones from the CWB warning them that an earthquake had occurred at 1:36 a.m. and to "Beware of probable shaking." Central Weather Bureau (CWB) Director-General Cheng Ming-dean (鄭明典) said that because of the distance and focal depth of the quake, the weather bureau's instruments received varying batches of data which caused calculation errors and triggered multiple automated alert messages through the public warning system.

He pledged that the CWB will work to improve its monitoring system and prevent such duplicate messages from being fired out in the future. Given the flood of text messages, many Taiwanese netizens became concerned about the impact on Chen with the post "Is Pokémon Go Grandpa OK?" trending on the popular online message board PTT.

However, Chen said that when he realized when the situation was not that serious, he continued to play as he gradually closed out all the warning messages. When asked about how much he spends on his hobby, Chen said that he actually pays for 20 phone numbers, which rack up over NT$20,000 (US$714) in monthly fees, while the rest are internet-only.


Updated : 2021-03-08 09:23 GMT+08:00