New Zealand quake survivors feel lucky to be alive

Saturday, September 4, 2010

AUCKLAND - Survivors of a massive 7.1 magnitude earthquake that struck New Zealand Saturday said they feel lucky to be alive.

A survivor said: “I’ll have a story for the rest of my life to tell.”

A state of emergency was declared after Christchurch, the biggest city in New Zealand’s South Island, was damaged by the earthquake that struck at 4.35 a.m.

Despite watching her house crumble in the quake, Christchurch resident Marsha Witehira thanked her lucky stars after being pulled by a friend from her bed as a brick wall came crashing down on it.

Witehira, 30, was asleep at her home when the quake struck. She was woken by her friend Tama Wharepata who was incidentally staying with her Friday night.

“He pulled me down the bed by my feet and by the time he’d done that, a brick had fallen from the wall right down beside my head,” Witehira was quoted as saying by the New Zealand Herald.

“I had just made it under the doorway and then the next minute my house was falling down around me. It’s pretty incredible, to look at it now it’s mind blowing,” she said.

“Had he not been there I wouldn’t have survived to speak about it today, that’s for sure. It’s pretty evident when you look at the house and the bricks are all over the bed.”

“I’m so grateful to Tama, my number one hero right now, and I’ll certainly have a story for the rest of my life to tell.”

Witehira said the house continued to crumble as aftershocks shook the area. “It’s just devastating to think I’m walking away from everything completely.”

Brent Anderson, from Australia’s New South Wales, was holidaying in New Zealand when the disaster occurred.

“My little boy woke up crying. About two minutes after that, the van started shaking. Big time - left, right, backwards and forwards,” Anderson said.

“I had a look outside and the lights had gone out. There was some aftershocks. You could hear sirens and stuff throughout the night. I could hear a lot of people rushing around,” he said.

“I have never experienced anything like that. It was rocking that hard it felt like it was going to rock over.”

Anderson said his family were unhurt. “My little boy was fairly shocked. My little girl slept right through it.”

“Locals are saying they were expecting something to happen. The weather has been odd for two weeks and living here you would get used to the weather and you can maybe kind of predict it.”

Colin Espiner, a journalist with Christchurch newspaper The Press, described the severity of the quake.

“The whole room was shaking, things were falling off the shelves, bookcases were falling over, pictures were coming down, glasswear was crashing all around,” Espiner was quoted as saying by the Herald Sun.

“It was the full-scale earthquake, nothing that I’ve ever felt like it before.”

“You could see out on the street there were buildings, particularly old brick buildings which had practically fallen down,” Espiner said.

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