Belfast Telegraph

Antrim woman's New Zealand quake terror: 'We didn't know what to do or where to go'

Former Belfast Telegraph reporter on being caught up in New Zealand quake terror

By Cate McCurry

A Co Antrim woman has described her terror and the scenes of chaos after she was caught up in the powerful earthquake that hit New Zealand.

Patrice Dougan, who is originally from Randalstown but now lives in Auckland, was asleep in her 12th floor apartment when the building started to shake.

Ms Dougan, who has lived in New Zealand for over four years, felt the tremors more than 600 miles from the epicentre.

The severe quake on the South Island struck just after midnight yesterday and was felt throughout the country, along with several powerful aftershocks.

The former Belfast Telegraph news reporter, who works for the New Zealand Herald, said: "It was chaotic - Auckland doesn't get that many earthquakes.

"I was in bed when it struck and at first I didn't know what it was.

"The wardrobe doors were rattling, I couldn't understand it.

"I jumped out of bed and realised it was an earthquake.

"We are on the 12th floor of an apartment block and we could feel it shaking. We didn't know what to do. There was nowhere we could go.

"After it stopped we went outside and could see a lot of people streaming out to the streets from our building.

"We knew from checking online that it was a massive earthquake.

"Authorities say there were around 100 aftershocks all over the country.

"It's been a long, sleepless night for many of us.

"After it happened I sent a message to my sister saying that I was OK. My family were shocked, but they are relieved I'm fine," said Ms Dougan.

At least two people died after the powerful earthquake.

Authorities said they were not yet declaring a national emergency, saying the regions are coping well.

The magnitude 7.8 quake struck just after midnight 132 miles south of Wellington, where it collapsed a ferry loading ramp, broke windows and caused items to fall from shelves.

Authorities later downgraded tsunami warnings around the country following the quake.

The Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management reported that a tsunami wave struck at about 1.50am and warned residents living in low-lying areas anywhere along the country's east coast to move to higher ground.

Prime Minister John Key said at a news conference later that the tsunami warnings were being downgraded to coastal warnings.

Speaking about six hours after the quake struck, Mr Key said he was unable to give further information on the fatalities until authorities had confirmed all the details.

He said officials had no reason to believe the death toll would rise.

"On the very best information we have at the moment, we think it's only likely to be two. But of course there are isolated parts of the country which we don't have perfect eyes on, so we can't be 100% sure," he said.

Mr Key said that crews would better be able to assess the damage during the day.

He said officials had decided not to declare a national emergency, because the nation's regions were able to adequately cope with the situation.

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