Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 30 October 2014

Family caught up in ‘violent’ quake

A bangor woman has described the terrifying aftermath of |Tuesday’s devastating earthquake in New Zealand’s South Island.

Lyn Coyle, who emigrated six years ago, endured a nerve-wracking wait to hear if her daughter Deby, a student in Christchurch, and fiance Raj, had survived the 6.3 force earthquake which struck suddenly on what had been a |normal, busy lunchtime.

Lyn, who lives in Timaru, two hours drive from Christchurch with husband James and son Andrew, said they felt the quake. “There was no warning at all. We felt it two hours away and in fact they felt it in Wellington and Dunedin too. It was a massive, violent shake — much worse than the September one.”

Daughter Deby got in touch shortly after the quake struck to let her parents know she was all right but she was frantic about Raj, whom she is to marry next January.

“Raj works in the city centre beside Christchurch Cathedral, which has tumbled,” said Lyn.

“The last Deby heard when she rang me was that he was in a stairwell somewhere in a building and then there was no word from him.”

To compound matters, 20-year-old Deby has a heart complaint and her mum feared the stress would impact on her. “She was hysterical at one point just wanting to go find him. I was yelling down the phone at her to calm down and listen to me ... stay put and safe. At that point the hospital was evacuating and I didn’t want her to collapse.

“Deby went to his flat to wait and he got out of the city and home. There were problems with cellphones working so he couldn't contact her,” she added.

“It was a scary, scary time and an anxious wait but they are safe with friends now and have all they need but if the aftershocks go on then we’ll go and bring them home,” said Lyn.

Yesterday the operation to rescue those still trapped under masonry got underway, despite dangerous aftershocks, measuring up to 5.7 on the Richter scale.

Christchurch mayor Bob Parker predicted that the final death toll could exceed 120 from what is being described as “New Zealand's darkest day”.

Among those trapped are 23 Japanese students from a |foreign-language school.

The situation could not be more different than 24 hours ago, with emergency services and specialist intensive care nurses being |drafted into the city.

Public buildings such as schools are closed and residents have been told to stay at home and save any safe water for drinking, as the city's reservoirs have been shut down.

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