Belfast Telegraph

Little hope left for Northern Ireland mum among the New Zealand quake missing

By Lesley-Anne Henry and Kristen Gelineau

A mother-of-one from Northern Ireland is among the hundreds of people missing, feared dead, following the earthquake in New Zealand, it has emerged.

Julie Wong (formerly Johnston), originally from Lisburn and in her mid 30s, emigrated to New Zealand five years ago where she has been living with her husband and four-year-old son.

She worked in the financial services industry and is believed to have been in the Pyne Gould Guinness building in Christchurch city centre which collapsed during the 6.3 quake last Tuesday.

Police have so far confirmed 148 are dead, but hopes are fading for the dozens more still believed to be buried under the collapsed buildings of the South Island city.

Rescue teams have been continuing to search for survivors but aftershocks have hampered their efforts and a forecasted windstorm could add to the hazards.

No survivors have been rescued since mid-afternoon on Wednesday, although the search for an Irishman is continuing.

JJ O'Connor has been missing since last Tuesday when the building in which he was working collapsed during the violent tremors.

Last night a spokesman for the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs said the body had not been retrieved as yet.

Mr O'Connor is originally from Lisereen, Abbeydorney, in Co Kerry.

Earlier yesterday the youngest known victim of the earthquake was its first to be laid to rest, as grieving relatives clutching stuffed toys bid farewell to five-month-old Baxtor Gowland.

The infant was sleeping at his home in Christchurch when he was struck by masonry shaken loose when the earthquake hit. He died in hospital.

Dozens of Baxtor's family and friends, most wearing baby-blue ribbons pinned to their mourning black, gathered at a small chapel. A slideshow of the smiling infant's photographs flashed on a screen as Sarah McLachlan's song Angel echoed throughout the room.

After the ceremony the tiny white casket bearing a wreath of white flowers was carried by a single pallbearer to a waiting car. His mother watched, clutching a dark-blue stuffed toy.

“Bax you are forever in our hearts we will always love you xo,” the boy's father Shaun McKenna wrote on a Facebook tribute page, under a photo he uploaded of his son.

“To the little man who made everyone smile who met him, may you look down upon us and help us remember your beautiful face.”

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