Another miracle of Christchurch quake timing

OLIVIA CARVILLE
Last updated 05:00 29/12/2010
Last Train To India
JOHN KIRK-ANDERSON/The Press
DESTRUCTION: City Mall restaurant Last Train To India was badly damaged by falling masonry during Sunday's aftershocks.

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People would have died if a central Christchurch restaurant had been open when a wall tumbled through its roof on Boxing Day, its owner says.

Last Train To India normally opens seven days a week, only closing for lunch on Sundays.

However, the City Mall restaurant was badly damaged during Sunday's aftershocks.

Bricks and debris fell through the restaurant's roof from the top storey of a neighbour's building at 10.30am, smashing the bar and five tables and leaving a gaping hole in the ceiling.

Owner Ginny Kaur was in tears as she saw her shattered restaurant for the first time yesterday.

"I don't have the words to say anything, I am still in a state of shock. I can only thank God that no-one got hurt," she said.

Kaur said the restaurant was packed with people on Christmas night, only hours before the violent aftershocks rocked Christchurch.

Kaur said five staff usually stood behind the bar, and customers would stand at the bar to buy drinks or pay for meals.

"I can't imagine what would have happened if we had been open," she said.

"Every day we are open, and normally the place is full of people. Nobody would have survived if we were in there. Everybody would have been standing right there."

The restaurant had escaped damage in the September 4 earthquake.

"We survived that big shake and we were just not expecting this now," she said.

Kaur said the neighbouring building had been green-stickered after the initial quake, indicating it was stable. "Why didn't they tell us that the building next door was not safe?

"Why did nobody realise that it was such a threat to us?

"A building can always be repaired but the loss of a life ...?"

Last Train To India, a family business, was a "dream project" for Kaur. She had imported the furniture and crockery from India, including the bar and cutlery, and even the front doors.

Kaur had not been able to see the restaurant until yesterday because the City Mall was cordoned after Sunday's aftershocks.

Owner John Logie said the building was earthquake strengthened two years ago. "It is disappointing that the building next door fell on top of us," he said.

"It wasn't our building that caused the problem. Building owners have to strengthen their buildings."

He hoped his building would be assessed by an engineer yesterday.

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- The Press

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