Coleraine woman caught up in NZ earthquake

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A COLERAINE woman caught up in the earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand, has said it was the “most terrifying experience” of her life.

Cathy Harris, a former BBC Radio Foyle employee, emigrated to the suburb of Ashburton, just south of Christchurch with her young son Thomas and husband Richard in 2009.

Formerly McGonigle, Cathy said the situation in Christchurch is “pretty horrendous.”

“I was at home making some lunch when the earthquake hit and I just got under a table,” she said.

“I know it was a much smaller earthquake than hit in September but it was a much more violent. I just knew straightaway that there was going to be catastrophic damage.

“There are still colleagues of mine I haven’t been able to get in touch with, I’m hoping they are okay but it’s terrible not knowing”

“The worst thing was my son was at school so as soon as the quake finished we went straight there. Thankfully it was lunchtime and the children were all out in the playground which is where they would have been had they been evacuated to if they had been indoors.

“There were a lot of very distressed children but our boy Thomas was remarkably calm about the whole thing.

“When the quake hit I was just looking at the carpet watching the ground moving. It’s just the most awful thing, you feel so powerless.

“It’s the most terrifying experience. It’s a whole new level of absolute fear.

“We are just dreading the next one. We are just trying to keep things normal for Thomas’ sake and trying not transfer our fear to him, which isn’t easy to do.”

The Foreign Office is offering consular assistance for anyone with concerns regarding family or friends who may be in the Christchurch area. They can be contacted on 0207 008 1500.

The Government in the Republic of Ireland has also issued a number. The Department of Foreign Affairs in Dublin can be contacted on 00 353 1 478 0822.