New Zealand quake: Mum dies with baby in her arms

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

CHRISTCHURCH - A mother died with her baby in her arms as she reportedly tried to run out of a store in panic in a shopping district when the devastating 6.3 magnitude quake struck this New Zealand city.

Passers-by went to her aid, but the woman was already dead. It was not clear how badly the baby was injured when mother and child were hit by falling debris, the Age reported wednesday.

Tom Brittenden, 25, was doing repair work to the Cafe Bleu in Cashel Street Mall when the earthquake hit. He ran out to an unbelievable scene and joined others in pulling people from beneath the rubble.

He said the shops on Cashel Mall near the nightclub district known as The Strip were a mess.

Brittenden said it looked like the woman with the baby had run out of a store in panic and got hit by debris.

We tried to pull these big bricks off her. It was a big one metre by one metre cube of bricks which hadn’t separated. They had fallen and landed on top of a lady and her baby. She was gone, the newspaper quoted Brittenden as saying. Some people put a blanket on the woman and removed the baby.

At least 65 people were killed as buildings were flattened and falling debris crushed vehicles when the quake hit the city Tuesday.

Prime Minister John Key said the death toll stood at 65, with authorities confirming 39 people had been formally identified. Key warned the toll would rise. We may be witnessing New Zealand’s darkest day, he said.

Christchurch Press reporter Olivia Carville described how a woman who worked in Cashel Mall waited for more than an hour for an ambulance. She had a broken pelvis and a severe gash to the face. I tried to help her, holding her pelvis together. She was screaming in pain, Carville said.

Elsewhere, a backpacker’s body lay in a van, crushed by a fallen building on Gloucester Street. Another woman’s body was dragged from the destruction and lay on the side of the street covered in an old green towel as officials rushed around her to save others.

People in sneakers and bike helmets were combing through the rubble trying to help. Mobile phone lines and internet connections were cut, leaving distressed residents struggling to reach loved ones.

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