Earthquake disaster: city of churches shattered

2011-02-23 00:00

CAPE TOWN — “I thought it was the end of the world. Paintings were falling off the walls and bottles were shattering on the floor.”

This is how one of the many South Africans living in Christchurch, New Zealand, yesterday described her frightening experience of the latest earthquake.

Maggie van Rooyen, who moved to Christchurch from Gauteng about 10 years ago, said she was jogging on a treadmill when it “started bucking like a horse”.

“We’re grieving over all the people who have died in our city. I feel as if Christchurch is starting to die. Yes, it will be rebuilt, but at the moment it’s in ruins.”

Engela Pretorius, of Clarkville in Christchurch, said the 12 South African families she has contact with are all unhurt.

At Christchurch airport, where her husband Werner works for Air New Zealand, the runways have to be tested before they can be used again. The airport was reopened for emergencies only.

“My first thought was how I was going to get my family together,” Pretorius said after the earthquake, which caused chaos over lunchtime in Christchurch.

At home, she and her two sons tuned in to a local radio station, which was broadcasting emergency plans.

“Rescue workers were deployed straight away and people started evacuating the city.”

She said many buildings are still shuttered following the first big earthquake in September last year.

A level 3 danger zone, the highest during a disaster, has been announced and Christchurch city centre is completely closed off.

JOHANNESBURG — The International Relations and Co-operation Department said yesterday it will assist South Africans in getting information about loved ones caught up in the earthquake. Spokesperson Clayson Monyela advised family members in South Africa to get in touch with the department’s consular section at 012 351 1000.

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