Exmouth tennis ace caught up in New Zealand quake

THE PARENTS of an Exmouth tennis ace caught up in the deadly New Zealand earthquake are breathing a huge sigh of relief after discovering their daughter is safe.

Bob and Ann Louis, of Douglas Avenue, endured a nightmare wake-up call this week as they rose out of bed to news of the 6.3 magnitude quake on the radio.

They quickly realised the natural disaster, which has claimed no fewer than 65 lives, happened within touching distance of where their daughter, Jo, has been captaining Great Britain’s over 40’s ladies team in the World Senior Tennis Tournament.

The 44-year-old had just finished playing a match, versus Canada, and returned to her clubhouse in Timaru – around one hour away from the epicenter in Christchurch – when the earthquake started to wreak havoc.

Jo, who works as manager of Exmouth Tennis Centre, in Withycombe Village Road, felt the quake in the building and all of its occupants were told to evacuate.

But soon afterwards, and to the relief of her parents, she sent a text message to let them know she was uninjured and well.

Ann, 67, said: “We were incredibly relieved to receive the text.

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“She hasn’t gone too much into detail about the details of the quake, I guess because she doesn’t want to make us worry any more.”

Jo and her teammates have chose to send text messages, and not phone calls, while the rescue operation to find people trapped among the rubble of collapsed buildings, continues.

This is so phone lines can remain free for the emergency services.

Bob, 70, added: “Not long after we received the first text, another one came through from Jo regarding a Turkish player who was playing in Christchurch and the court opened up in front of him.

“She was due to play there next week.”

Jo’s text message to her parents read: “This is scary! Massive devastation in Christchurch. All the (tennis) players are ok. We have had a few earthquakes here but no damage.”

Teammates who were with her in Timaru at the time of the quake included a lady from Sidmouth, Sue Wiltshire.

“Apparently the tournament directors will be making a decision later this week as to whether the competition will continue,” said Bob.

“When something like this happens, quite rightly it puts things into context, and sport should take a backseat.”

It is understood the British Embassy is helping arrange an early flight home to the UK for Jo and her fellow British players and she may be back home next Monday.