Off to a fresh start in Feilding
Two years have passed since Christchurch was devastated by a deadly earthquake, but February 22 is a day not easily forgotten by quake refugees who have built new lives in Manawatu.
The Budathoki family decided to flee Christchurch a month after the earthquake struck.
They had moved from Nepal to New Zealand four years ago and the quake prompted them to uproot once again, moving to Feilding to start afresh.
Durga Budathoki was driving to work when the earthquake struck.
"Everything started moving and I was like 'God, what is happening', and then the guy in front of me just took off. It was scary."
She drove through some of the worst affected areas in the city's east, through liquefaction and past destroyed homes.
"My car was half buried in water, we couldn't see the way."
When Ms Budathoki arrived back at her central city home after two hours battling traffic, aftershocks and cracks in the road, she was relieved to find her house still standing, although it had cracks and there was liquefaction.
She resolved to stay and continue working, but her mother lost her job after the quake levelled her workplace.
"My family said 'no, we are leaving here, we are going' ... the children never wanted to go back to school."
The family of seven shifted to Feilding to seek a new life.
"It's a quiet place and a nice town to live in," Ms Budathoki said.
Now her mum has found work and she and her sister are happily studying nursing at UCOL, while their siblings have settled in at Feilding High and Intermediate schools.
Manawatu Mayor Margaret Kouvelis, whose daughter Pippa Ranby survived the quake on the top floor of the five-storey CTV building, in which 115 people died, said it had taken time to heal from the trauma.
When Mrs Kouvelis learned of the earthquake she feared her daughter was dead.
"Even though it's two years on, it's still a very, very difficult time and is still present with us now," she said.
"It always will be."
It was Ms Ranby's birthday yesterday, and although she remains in Christchurch, Mrs Kouvelis said the family would be celebrating the milestone.
Palmerston North police Inspector Mark Harrison, who acted as a liaison with family and friends of victims in February 2011, said he would not be going to Christchurch for the commemorations.
Manawatu Fire Service area manager Mitchell Brown said about 10 people went to a ceremony in Wellington on Wednesday to receive awards in recognition of their work following the February quake.
St John spokesman Mark Tregoweth said certificates would be presented this morning to operational members who went to Christchurch.