Couple caught up in quake

A TOPSHAM woman is relieved after finding out her parents who were in Christchurch at the time of the deadly New Zealand earthquake are safe and well.

Richard and Janet Newton, parents to Cathy Payne, of Retreat Road, were sightseeing in the South Island city when the 6.3 magnitude quake, which has claimed no fewer than 100 lives, hit.

Cathy said: “I was so glad to hear they were ok. The first I heard about their close encounter with the disaster was when I woke up to an answering machine message from them to say they were safe.”

Her parents were staying with friends who live in Christchurch – the epicentre of the quake.

Thirty-nine-year-old Cathy said the family home was wrecked. “The structure of the house was relatively ok but it was as though somebody had picked it up and shook it around. Its contents were flung all over the place.”

Such was the destruction, that night her parent’s friends stayed in a garage with Richard and Janet taking shelter at a local fire station.

“My mum was terrified afterwards because of all the aftershocks,” said Cathy, whose dad, in the last week, has sent her details via email of the chain of events.

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In the message, Richard described the intense sound when the quake struck to be as though they were standing above an underground tube station.

He added: “Then, the whole place was swaying; screaming started and we all dived under tables. The noise was deafening.

“The realisation it was an earthquake took a little longer to sink in with the visitors rather than locals who sadly are accustomed to it particularly after the earthquake last September.”

Richard recalled seeing rubble and dust everywhere, noticing twisted rail tracks and looking up to see the spire destroyed on Christchurch Cathedral.

The couple met Prime Minister John Key after the disaster and thanked him for the generosity shown by New Zealanders as they coped to deal with their own situation post-quake.

They are now both calling on kind-hearted East Devon folk to help with the earthquake appeal by visiting the following website address at: www.redcross.org.uk/nzearthquake

As reported in last week’s Journal, Exmouth couple Chloe Byers, 21, and her boyfriend, Jim Dale, were both in Christchurch at the time of the quake. They, also, are safe and well.

And Jo Louis, who works as manager of Exmouth Tennis Centre, had just finished playing a match in a tournament played in New Zealand, when the ground started to shake. The 44-year-old was unhurt.

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