In their words: Stories from Christchurch

The front page of today's Dominion Post.
The front page of today's Dominion Post.

FEELING HELPLESS

Reporter for The Press Jo Gilbert describes how she is feeling following the Christchurch earthquake.

Two men support a man who was rescued from Cashell Mall yesterday.
Two men support a man who was rescued from Cashell Mall yesterday.

"Mother Nature's mercy has run out on Christchurch.

For more than five months, she tried to break us, but we would not be broken.

We soldiered on, began to rebuild, and shed tears over stories of our wrecked heritage buildings, uninhabitable homes and irreplaceable treasured possessions.

LEFT WITH NOTHING: Christchurch earthquake survivor Taehyun Lee in Wellington.
LEFT WITH NOTHING: Christchurch earthquake survivor Taehyun Lee in Wellington.

"It's only a house," we'd say.

"We can build another, but lives can't be replaced.'

But early this once ordinary Tuesday afternoon, she unleashed her wrath, forever altering our lives.

While workers worked, schoolchildren were schooled, parents parented and tourists were touristy, she struck us with a most forceful wallop.

Like sand, our buildings crumbled, taking with them many men, women and children of this magnificent city.

I feel so helpless.

This is so surreal.

I see images like this – of an unfamiliar, foreign city – in the newspaper and on the television news.

But that devastation is at the hands of man. This is not Baghdad, nor Palestine.

I know these people, I know those buildings. They are my friends, that is my home, that is my work.

To see the building you have built your family's life in or given your days to come tumbling down.

There are no words.

To see bloodied shoppers dead on the street, their purchases still in their grip, office workers strewn like ragdolls under the weight of their ruined workplace.

There are no words.

Like many, my tears flow often and fast for all those people who have been taken from us and the devastated city.

Tales of survival astonish, but are eclipsed by what we have lost.

Thinking about what the final fatality count may be is a terrifying thought.

I feel so helpless.

I go to work, where I write words. I wonder if anyone reads them. I wonder if they make any difference. I wonder what the point is.

I feel so helpless.

Every time I hear the rumble of another aftershock, my heart leaps into my mouth, alongside a little anger. When will this stop?

Questions, I have many.

How can we recover from this? How do we recover from this?

Who wants to live in the ruins of this beautiful city?

Loyal Cantabrians of all different walks of life are fleeing, vowing never to return.

Is there any point in rebuilding?

Or will our city soon feel Mother Nature's wrath again?

How will we heal?

I feel so helpless."

THE JOURNEY IS JUST BEGINING

Taranaki Daily News reporter Kate Saunders returned home to Christchurch yesterday – to a city that will never be the same.

"Presumption is a strange word.

Presumed dead.

It provides the slimmest of hope, that soon curls up and away like the smoke rising from the CTV building my friend is trapped in.

I arrived in Christchurch yesterday, after six hours in two different airports.

From the air, the Canterbury Plains seemed serene and innocuous – their sleepy paddocks and stock lazily stretching out across the horizon.

The cracks were not evident from above.

Driving into the city was like moving into a war zone.

The tanks! Everywhere, dozens of them, low squat sluggish machines grinding down the streets with camouflaged soldiers that would have seemed almost comical if it was not reality.

The traffic! Grid-locked, edging along through thick liquefaction being scooped up by weary children with spades almost the same height as them.

And in Redcliffs, by the sea, where I spent lazy summers on the beach as a teenager, rocks are shattered, fallen on houses, on people. Stealing life with their crumbling mess.

I am unsure if I've ever felt as much joy as when I saw my grandmother alive, and she chased the Daily News photographer Cam Burnell across the room, asking him to get that "dreadful contraption"– his camera – away from her.

The laughter that ensued seemed to be an elephant in the room.

Who were we to feel happiness?

Those who survived speak of the guilt as a consuming hurt, asking that question why?

"I will never get to terms with it. Part of me is changed forever. I don't understand why it was them," said another journalist friend, who was out on a job for CTV at the time.

Many of those survivors are the ones wading through silt, donating blankets, giving away free water on street corners – even though they have lost their own homes.

"What else can I do?" one woman said to me. "I'm alive."

Yesterday, I waited for news about my friend.

They say the CTV building was not survivable.

Today, I wait for a body, for the start of that hideous word closure that is meant to encapsulate so much but really offers little.

For so many, it is the end, but for the survivors, the journey is just beginning."

I'LL NEVER FORGET

New Brighton resident Donna Wright will never forget the day she saw a woman killed in front of her.

Mrs Wright broke down in tears as she recalled seeing a live electricity wire swing into a woman on Moorhouse Ave, electrocuting her.

She had been driving home from the city when the quake hit, and ended up stopping her car to pick up five strangers to help them escape falling bricks from collapsing buildings.

Her son Dale, 13, was on a half-day at school and home alone. He saw the chimney fall down outside their New Brighton Rd home and saw a concrete cellphone tower fall down several metres away.

He called his mum to say he was OK and then went to Freeville School to meet his brothers, Jeremy, 10, and Blair, nine.

Their home, already severely damaged from the September quake, is a write off, Mrs Wright said.

Water mixed with sewage surrounds the house and being inside is ''like being on jelly'', she said.

The family are camping in tents in Queenspark and are considering leaving Christchurch permanently.

Her husband Mike said it was hard but the family would manage.

Mrs Wright agreed: ''We are a strong bunch, us Cantabrians.''

'YOU JUST DO ANYTHING TO HELP'

The Hardaker family were carrying seven-week-old baby Hurley in a push-chair across shin deep water when stopped by the Marlborough Express.

Jonny and his fiance Melissa Gould were walking back from a relative's house when they came across flooding over the road and footpath on their way to Jonny's parent's house in Bexley.

The couple were staying at Jonny's parent's, Paul and Megan's, house because their house in New Brighton was unsafe, he said.

Paul and Megan's house had already been deemed a write off in the September quake.

"It's not good, but it's liveable,'' Megan said.

"The community is pretty tight around here. We have had practice now so we know the drill.''

With their 4 wheel drive vehicle, they had been transporting people through the flood water. Many people had already left the area.

"You just do anything to help,'' Jonny said.

'WE WANT TO STAY'

The Kerry family have been clearing silt off their New Brighton property for two days and they are only half finished.

The home of Colin and Julie Kerry and children Hamish, 22, Rhys, 14, Isabella, 11, was completely surrounded by 60 centimetres of silty sand after the quake yesterday.

The Bower Ave house is sloping toward the road perched on cracked foundations. Parts of the ceiling have fallen down.

The family have no water, power or sewerage but are trying to remain positive. They are sleeping on mattresses in a sleep-out and want to remain at home surrounded by their community.

"We want to stay because there are so many of us.''

Relatives in Hornby were supplying food and water, but the Kerry family were hoping a port-a-loo would arrive soon so they didn't have to use a bucket.

"But it's nothing compared to what it's like in town. At the end of the day we are alive.''

"Friends know people who are missing - it's really awful. It becomes personal then.''

Julie Kerry rode out the quake holding onto a shaking doorframe in the house. She could only watch as everything fell off kitchen shelves and the dishwasher moved a metre out from the wall.

"My neighbour yelled out 'are you OK?' I'm coming over''' and they shared a hug, she said.

FLOOD WATERS TOO DEEP TO CROSS

Mother and son, Ruth and David Rigby, are among other Bexley residents stranded by flood waters.

Four wheel drive vehicles are needed to get through the flooding. 

Mrs Rigby tried to drive to a water collection site early on Thursday, but found flood waters were too deep for her car.

However, a policeman passed on some fresh water.

The Rigby's, like others in their area, have no power, water or sewerage but are thankful they are alive.

"What can you do? You've got to keep going,'' said Rigby. 

"Someone has to stay and watch these places. It's day by day at the moment.''

They are using a neighbour's well, but the water needed to be sieved and boiled several times and even then was not suitable for drinking.

They had already removed 240 litres of muddy water out of their garden shed by Thursday morning.

No authorities had come to check on them, but the pair said rescuing people was more important.

Rigby was at home during the earthquake when windows blew out and a large china cabinet fell down.

"I was terrified. I thought it was the lounge window where I was sitting.''

David was on the 3rd floor of the Holiday Inn on Cashel St in the city centre and had to break the door down to ensure he and 10 others got out.

"It was scary, you could hear the girls screaming, lights falling, and lots of snapping and crunching.''

ICON LEAVES TOWN

The Wizard has quit Christchurch after the earthquake, but not before wading through knee-deep water to help a rest home and rescue a dog.

Ian Brackenbury Channell is taking his 91-year-old mother to Oamaru and plans to leave the city for good.

"I'm very unhappy about what has happened to my lovely Christchurch.

"I'm heartbroken.

"I love the buildings and the place, but so much of it has gone," The Wizard said.

Fixing the town had "gone too far".

"It's beyond my wildest powers," he said.

For nearly four decades, The Wizard of New Zealand has been donning a pointy hat and robes and spouting forth his many and varied views on life, love and religion to crowds in Cathedral Square.

The 78-year-old, who moved to Christchurch from Australia in 1974, said the earthquake was the last straw and it was time to retire and leave town.

"It's probably the end of an era for me. The town I love so much is gone."

On Tuesday he was at his home in Avonside preparing to go and perform in Cathedral Square when the quake struck. It was like being in a "cocktail machine", he said.

However, his house was largely undamaged.

"I couldn't believe it there wasn't a single crack. Perhaps there's a bit of magic."

After checking on family he waded through water to get to St James of Avonside, a rest home, which cares for about 50 elderly people.

While there he rescued Molly, a brussels griffon dog, from drowning in water, which had bubbled up from the ground.

The dog belonged to the rest home's co-owner Sue Milligan.

"It would have broken my heart to lose her. I can't bare the thought of it. She brings a lot of enjoyment to residents."

Milligan's business was badly damaged in the earthquake and is still without power and water.

Chefs had to cook on gas, she said.

The business' repair bill from September's shake was about $1.5 million. She estimated the new damage would cost double that to repair.

"We are only just coping. We can't keep on like this."

The rest home desperately needed volunteers to help clear away liquefaction. Water, paper cups, plates and sanitary wipes were also needed, she said.

'I SAW THINGS I PROBABLY SHOULDN'T HAVE'

A man among those helping to rescue people trapped in buildings in Christchurch and has witnessed horrific scenes.

Archietct Jason Mil was with a client in a packed city centre food court when the earthquake struck.

"There was food everywhere'' and screaming from the kitchens as fires started from the fat, he said.

Mr Mill, who was in Christchurch during the first earthquake, has been involved in the strengthening work on city buildings.

They rushed to Cathedral Square where they helped four people from the rubble of the collapsed Madras Street Church, where builders had been repairing damage from September's quake.

"The steel frame holding it up was still there but the church was gone."

Joining a rescue squad of labourers and builders, Mr Mill also helped rescue people trapped inside the Pyne Gould Corporation building.

They managed to pull six people out of the building who had lacerations, but were able to walk away, but on the other side of the building, they had to remove a man's limb to get him out, he said.

"I saw things I probably shouldn't have."

His architect skills helped to work out what parts of the building were still viable, he said.

His team was relieved four hours later, after which he had a 9km walk home through the mud and destruction.

"Everywhere you look there's devastation."

WEDDING TO GO ON

Kate Le Heron is adamant she will watch her brother get married in Christchurch  tomorrow.

The 22-year-old arrived in Christchurch from Hamilton about an hour before the earthquake struck.

And while she had got little sleep  because of all of the aftershocks, Ms Le Heron said she was not prepared to leave Christchurch until her brother was a married man.

David Le Heron will marry Hayley Fisher  tomorrow. They were  to be married at the Taitapu Church but the building was damaged during the earthquake.

Ms Le Heron said the couple had changed plans and the service was to be held at a reception venue, the Dale Vineyard.

She said more family were expected to arrive in Christchurch today and everyone was looking forward to the   celebrations.

"We are all going to be together and we are looking forward to having something to celebrate after the last couple of days.''

PEOPLE FLEE

People are fleeing Christchurch in increasing numbers in the wake of the earthquake.

Dozens of people, international tourists among them, this morning queued at a makeshift Intercity bus shelter on the fringe of the city centre to take the next ride out. Backpacks, suitcases and bedding were piled up beside them.

Swedish traveller Birgetta Olsen was heading for Queenstown, where she hoped there was more stable ground.

She said she was in Cathedral Square when the earthquake hit.

"I talking to a lady at the tourist information desk when it happened," Ms Olsen said.

"She pulled me and we went down to the ground together. When it was over people were just screaming out and crying."

When she went outside she was greeted by the sight of buildings collapsing around her, including the ChristChurch Cathedral, where people are still believed to be trapped.

An Intercity spokeswoman said its buses out of Christchurch, including extra services put on yesterday, had been fully loaded.

"A lot of people are heading for Picton, getting off the island altogether," she said.

"There are a mixture of local people and tourists trying to get out - not so many people trying to get in though."

Locals were also going, some temporarily while two Canterbury University students wanted to make it more permanent.

Josh Kosmala told NewsWire.co.nz he was 80 percent sure he was going to quit university in Christchurch.

And his girlfriend, Katie Chilton, wanted to transfer her papers to Victoria University, but was worried that it was too late to do so.

FEARING THE WORST

A man thought his wife and child had been killed when he looked out of his work building in central Christchurch and saw the devastation caused by Tuesday's earthquake.

Tax consultant Daniel Marshall, 29, sprinted down 12 flights of stairs at the PricewaterhouseCoopers building to look for his wife Amy and 14-month-old son Ethan who were at a cafe just around the corner.

"When it hit we were being thrown around," he said.

"As soon as it started shaking I looked out and all I could see was big plumes of dust. And I guess that's when I realised that the building Amy and Ethan were at was quite an old building.

"I was pretty convinced that the building wouldn't be standing. You do fear the worst, that you'll lose your wife and child."

Mr Marshall ran past pools of water that sprung from the ground, shattered windows and ruined buildings, to get to the Colombo St cafe.

"I got around the corner and I was pretty relieved to see the building was standing and there wasn't anyone around it. They'd all moved across to Victoria Square. I made my way across there and managed to find them, which was a big relief."

Both were shaken but unharmed, though when the quake hit, Mrs Marshall had to tip Ethan's chair over to drag him under a table.

Their next ordeal was getting out of the city.

"We could just hear the shrieks and screams as people started running," he said. "We decided that we had to get out of town. It was obviously seriously hit and we wanted to get somewhere else."

After getting into Mrs Marshall's car on Oxford St, they began a "surreal" drive home.

"It was just amazing scenes of people just walking, everyone was just streaming out of town. There were funny scenes of people trying not to get their shoes wet while there are churches sitting there in absolute ruin."

The decision to leave town was for his family's safety, but Mr Marshall felt bad when he saw three men, armed with an axe, sledgehammer and crowbar respectively, running to help in the city.

After packing some possessions and calling loved ones, Mr Marshall and his family got in the car and drove to Nelson, where he plans to stay for at least a week.

GLASS AND CUTLERY FLYING

A hotel bar came crashing down around Manfeild Park chief executive Heather Verry, who had to duck under the table when the Christchurch quake hit on Tuesday afternoon.

"Glass came smashing down everywhere," Mrs Verry said.

"The fish tank went. The knives and forks were thrown off the tables. It was a big shake, that's for sure."

The Feilding events venue chief executive was eating lunch with a colleague at the Pavilions Hotel, about 100 metres from where buildings started crumbling, when the quake hit.

"We were so lucky. We were in a state of shock. We got out as soon as we could."

Clouds of smoke and debris filled the air as Mrs Verry sat helplessly on the footpath outside the hotel.

"No-one wanted our help down there and we certainly didn't want to go down there. We just had to sit and listen to the screams and yells for help coming from the city."

Mrs Verry managed to get on board an Air Force Hercules on Tuesday night and flew back to Wellington.

"As I drove to the airport, there was another major quake and I saw young people outside their destroyed homes, holding babies. They were yelling for help. That was the thing that got to me."

Mrs Verry said she had a friend from Christchurch who was mourning the loss of friends who were trapped, and presumed dead, in the Canterbury Television building. The search of the fire-ravaged building was called off about 1pm yesterday.

A MASSIVE TASK

While most eyes were focused on the agonising search for survivors and the awesome destruction of buildings in central Christchurch, those who remained in the suburbs quietly got on with the massive task of cleaning up their properties and streets.

In the streets in the suburb of Charleston, four-wheel-drive vehicles lie abandoned, stranded in a watery muck of liquefaction, in the middle of the streets. Houses are buckled on their foundations, and footpaths have moved half a metre up fence lines on the street.

Apprentice electrician Regan Riddell, 20, and apprentice builder Ryan Hart, 22, were out lending a hand to neighbours they didn't know.

"It's pretty sad, eh," Mr Riddell said looking at the street.

Last year's earthquake there wasn't even a grain of sand on the street afterwards, but the latest one was significantly worse, they said.

The pair, like many others spoken to, said many of their neighbours had just packed up and left, some leaving on Tuesday, and more abandoning their homes yesterday.

Helping others was better than staying at home and watching TV, they said.

"We don't really know what to do with ourselves," Mr Hart said.

They were shovelling mud, while other rubberneckers "just walked past".

Further down the street Ashburton man Malcolm Dellow had come to the street to help out his employee Greg May.

Mr Dellow has bought up a small digger to help Mr May clear his badly liquidated property. He's got three other staff in Christchurch he's helped out. At times like this you did what you could, he said.

"We just wish we could do a bit more." Mr May's children and wife are staying with Mr Dellow's family in Ashburton.

His two-year-old son had a narrow escape in the earthquake after a wardrobe fell on him, but he wasn't injured.

He said the feeling in the neighbourhood was calm; people were shocked, but were just getting on with it. While the street and his family was a mess, he was just grateful his family was fine.

"You've just got to get on with it," Michael Sandford said trying to clear a path to his garage. "I don't think it's over yet." Further down on Charles St, Roy Hunter, said he was surprised at the number of rubber-neckers who were driving past.

"You don't usually get that many cars down here, but we must have had about 2000 cars go past easy today. Nobody is stopping to help, they are just having a nosy." The damage from this earthquake to the street was "mindblowing".

"It would be 100 per cent worse, in the first earthquake we got nothing.

"You can't beat Mother Nature."

CHURCH COLLAPSING AROUND HER

A church pianist survived without a scratch as Canterbury's oldest stone church collapsed around her.

Lyttelton's 141-year-old Holy Trinity Anglican Church should have claimed a life after sustaining major damage during Monday's aftershock.

Reverend Neil Struthers said church pianist Wendy Souter was practising inside the building when the south wall collapsed.

Struthers' son, Sam Struthers, raced from the adjacent vicarage fearing the worst.

"The windows imploded, the wall [beside the piano] had fallen down and she was sitting there playing the piano," Sam Struthers said. "She's OK, but she was pretty shaken up. I just took her outside and held her for about 10 minutes."

Neil Struthers said he was driving in Christchurch at the time of the quake, but expected to return to a wreck.

The church had sustained damage in the September quake and had been reinforced.

"I knew that by the type of shaking that this would be the result," he said. "It's devastating. We've lost a $1 million window."

A painting more than 100 years old by former vicar Canon Coates was smashed in the rubble.

Neil Struthers said there was "no way" the church could be saved. The east wall also collapsed.

TEEN'S TRAUMATIC TREK HOME

A teenager had to be dragged by her friends from the wreckage of her school, then trekked through the ruins of the city centre past bodies and crying office workers to reach home.

"She has seen things you really shouldn't," mum Jenny Purcell said of daughter Emily, 15, who is still finding it hard to recover from the ordeal of Tuesday's quake.

"I'm just so exhausted and I want to sleep but I can't sleep because these aftershocks keep happening," Emily said.

The Purcells' house is intact, with power and water, but Mrs Purcell said it could take some time for Emily to recover emotionally from what she had seen. "I think we have a long way to go with her."

It was supposed to be a normal school lunch hour for Emily, who was relaxing on a couch with mates at Unlimited Paenga Tawhiti school when the quake struck.

"We were sitting beside a window and I looked out and the buildings were shaking and the glass was smashing and I looked to my left and the wall had a really big crack in it. We just kind of freaked out."

The roof collapsed, a piece of it falling on Emily and her friends. "We all just thought we were going to die, [that] we had no other option than just to die there. Then our friends pushed it off us. They all got up but I couldn't move. I guess I was kind of in shock or something because I couldn't get my legs to work. My friend had to grab me and scream at me to run."

The teenagers gathered in the school car park, where "all you could smell was gas", and the group fled to Cashel Mall, where the pupils were gathered.

The first aftershock then hit and they were told to run. "Panes of glass were falling from the Westpac Building so we had to get out of there. We ran to Latimer Square, and went past people covered in blood.

"I ran past the CTV building and saw people trying to crawl out of there. Oh, it was just so horrible."

Emily was receiving texts from her mother, who was in a mall in Papanui when the earthquake hit. "I got all the texts from her saying, `Are you OK? Are you OK?' But I couldn't reply ... my cellphone wouldn't work so I was panicking. It was about two hours before I could reply," Emily said.

For those two hours Mrs Purcell knew only that Emily was in a park and the roof of her school had collapsed. She drove to her second daughter Kate's school in Papanui, where she found her on a field with 1300 other pupils. They drove to Mrs Purcell's work at Christchurch Girls' High hostel, to help care for the 90 boarders there.

"It was good being able to look after these kids because they were like my little surrogate Emilys. I had Kate right there beside me. I just texted her and texted her and texted her and I didn't get any response," Mrs Purcell said.

"Driving to my work was like a war zone, the roads were all split and the liquefaction was coming out and there were fronts off these enormous two-storey houses, you could see right in."

Eventually a text from Emily came through, saying she was safe – but the family still could not reunite. With the CBD cordoned off, Emily walked to a friend's house.

"It was really horrible, like massive holes in the street with rubbish bins in them," she said. "That's how big they were, absolutely huge."

GIGGLE AFTER 24 HOURS TRAPPED

Once she knew she was alive Ann Bodkin was determined to survive.

The former Southland woman, who left Christchurch Hospital this morning, said she was coming to terms with the emotional impact of being trapped in rubble for more than 25 hours.

After the building collapsed she was under a desk with not much room to move but she said she was determined to get out alive.

"...and I did," she said.

Ms Bodkin, 54, said she was extremely grateful for the rescuers who worked so hard to get me out.

After more than 24 hours buried in the rubble of the Pyne Gould Corporation building, all Ms Bodkin could offer her anxious husband was a giggle when she was finally freed yesterday.

Ms Bodkin, who works at the Education Review Office, dived under her desk when the quake struck.

While the rescue was under way, her husband Graham Richardson had been at the scene anxiously watching the rescue attempt unfold.

When she was finally freed she had been unable to say anything to him because she had an oxygen mask covering her face, but managed a giggle at something he said to her, Mr Richardson said.

However, he would not reveal his first words to her.

ANXIOUS MOTHER MAKES BAREFOOT CLIMB OVER ROCKY TERRAIN

A 350 metre-high wall of rock couldn't keep Megan Jamieson from her three young children.

With the dust still settling from the devastating 6.3 magnitude earthquake , Ms Jamieson, 42, was one of dozens who braved the unstable 2.5km bridle path track when the Lyttelton Tunnel was closed off.

She had been unable to phone anyone to see if her sons Benjamin, 11, Elijah, 9, and daughter Tessa, 4, were safe.

''Then I met up with about a dozen very concerned parents who were stuck on the wrong side of the hill,'' she said.

''There were quite a few dressed for office work. A couple in nurses uniforms, a couple of very well-dressed people in their 40s  all sorts.

''There were people carrying briefcases and laptops along the way  suit jackets slung over their shoulders  definitely a few women like me who were dressed for normal work and lacking hill-climbing attire.''

Ms Jamieson said the 90-minute climb over the stony track was a steep and perilous one, with aftershocks regularly hurtling rocks the size of basketballs down towards them.

Ms Jamieson also had to do the last half of the journey barefoot, as the terrain became to difficult in her ''strappy'' work sandals.

But the arduous climb was fogotten when she found her kids safe and sound at Lyttelton Main School and was able to hold them in her arms.

GOOD SAMARITAN HELPS MUM GET HOME TO KIDS

Lisa Raxworthy was working at the ANZ Bank in Cathedral Square when the earthquake struck.

As she walked down nearby High St she saw a man and a woman lying amid rubble.

''She looked paralysed - hopefully temporarily I don't know, she couldn't move - and he was on the ground. Some nurses had gathered around and were trying to get some air into him but it wasn't going that well,'' she said.

''I just held his hand and talked to him and I just prayed for him. He did not respond. We didn't know if he was unconscious or just had a low pulse rate or whatever, but eventually it got to the point where we could tell he had no oxygen coming through and no pulse could be felt on him.''

After police arrived to help the woman, Ms Raxworthy was anxious to get home to her children, but her car was in a carpark and she did not want to enter any buildings.

A man called Andy, whose last name she did not know, lent her his bike.

''He was a bloomin' angel because I needed to get home and check on my children and he let me ride his bike - his really expensive bike - home. I rode in my work skirt through the liquefaction on a bike that was way too big for me.''

She had given Andy her phone number and she hoped he would get in touch.

PARENTS DESPERATE TO FIND SURVIVOR

Shane Tomlin's dust-covered face has been beamed around the world as one of the definitive images of the Christchurch earthquake, but his parents in Kaikoura still can't find him.

Doreen Tomlin said the photograph and video footage was the only way she and her husband knew their 42-year-old son Shane Tomlin had been rescued.

At 3pm Wednesday afternoon, they still didn't know where he was. They are desperate for news. "We've rang all the hospitals and listed him as missing on the Red Cross line but no one knows where he is. We've tried every hospital from Timaru to Blenheim.”

Photos and video footage were taken as Shane was being pulled from rubble of Cashel St mall after Tuesday's earthquake caused havoc in Christchurch.

The images show rescuers carrying Mr Tomlin, one rescuer's hand holding his dust-covered head steady. The photo filled the front page of the Dominion Post and also was prominantly displayed in The Press and The Marlborough Express this morning.

Mrs Tomlin said she had heard from a friend in the United States that the photo was run had been shown on media there.

Video footage of his rescue was also on the internet. Shane, a baker at Trocadero's bakery, worked on the second floor of the store in Cashel Street. Mrs Thomlin was told by his workmates that he fell through to the first floor when the quake hit.

"We saw him [on the internet] being carried out by his arms and legs and he was groaning."

Do you know where Mr Tomlin is? Email The Marlborough Express

UNFORGETTABLE BIRTHDAY

Queenstown girl Melissa Romerill will never forget her 12th birthday. The Selwyn House boarder spent her birthday yesterday enduring the after-effects of the Christchurch earthquake.

Tears of relief flowed for her Queenstown grandmother Jean Boyd, and mother Jenny Romerill, as Melissa and her brothers, Grant, 13, a Christ's College pupil, and Joshua, 9, of Medbury School, returned home safely on a mid-morning flight from Christchurch yesterday.

Grant narrowly escaped being crushed under falling debris after sprinting into the centre of the school quad when he felt the earthquake hit.

"The whole front of the building fell right where we were standing.''

Melissa and her friends were in the school library playing Monopoly:

"All the big hanging lights were swinging and fell down into the library all the Year 8's screamed and got under the piano.''

Joshua and his friends were just about to eat lunch: "We just finished saying grace and said `Amen' and it happened everyone came and squeezed in together.''

The children spent a terrifying night last night enduring constant after-shocks - they only bright moment in the whole horrible ordeal for Melissa a birthday cake that arrived from Mum at 8pm last night.

RESCUERS INVITED TO WEDDING

One of the survivors pulled out of the PGC building early this morning is scheduled to get married this week.

Volunteer rescue worker Jason Sutherland said he and another man helped the woman out of the ruined building during a 12-hour shift.

Her wedding date was in two days.

"I think she invited us to her wedding," he said.

He helped rescue 11 people from the building, which collapsed like a pancake during the quake yesterday.

He felt claustrophobic crawling through tight spaces in the building, but said it was like winning Lotto to get someone out alive.

It was an amazing feeling, "nothing like it".

The hardest part of the rescue work was getting through the rubble and twisted steel.

The adrenalin kicked in when aftershocks hit the building and it was important to stay calm to reassure the victims, he said.

"They were happy to be out, happy to breath fresh air and happy to see daylight."

LIKE A WAR ZONE

"Surreal" is how reporters from The Southland Times have described the destruction and devastation in Christchurch today.

Two reporters and a photographer drove to Christchurch last night to help colleagues at The Press, whose building has been severely damaged.

Many will have damaged homes or injured loved ones so other newspapers are sending staff to ensure important messages are getting to those affected.

Reporter Sam McKnight, who lived in Christchurch for seven years, said it was a surreal feeling walking through the city because it felt like they were walking into a war zone.

"Especially at the refuge centre. It's just a sea of people."

The shock and horror was evident on the faces of people  "especially in older people you can see the trauma in their eyes".

"Around the city there's big areas where nothing has happened. But as you gradually get closer to the city centre the road gets bumpier and there are big cracks."

"A lot of people are walking around but it's hard to know what they're doing.''

Police reporter Jared Morgan described the aftershocks as being sharp jolts and they were starting to imagine them because they were hyper-alert to them.

JUST WANT TO GET OUT

It could be Auckland, Melbourne or Italy - Belle and Tama Milne don't care where they go. They just want to get out of Christchurch.

The couple joined the long queue of motorists filling their vehicle at BP Papanui, Christchurch this afternoon.

Mrs Milne said the couple had both lost their jobs following Tuesday's big earthquake; and they decided they just had to leave even though they hadn't worked out where they would go or what they would do.

Mr Milne owns the tennis shop at Wilding Park which was destroyed in the quake and Mrs Milne is a graphics tutor at the Design and Arts School in the central city where the building has been badly damaged.

Fighting back the tears, Mrs Milne said they had lived in Christchurch for 10 years, arriving with nothing, and the city had been good to them. They still had a house here which was fine, but they would have to shift for work.

"How do you live," she said. "How do you pay the bills?"

She said it had been hard enough finding work after the last quake and they would probably leave the city for at least a couple of years.

Others filling up their car at the BP station were also heading out of town, joining the exodus of Cantabrians heading out of central Christchurch.

A woman who only gave her first name of Sandra said she had been injured in the first quake and she just had to get out of the city. She didn't have any firm plans and was playing it by ear.

"I don't want to stay in Christchurch and go through all the aftershocks again."

Another woman at the station said she was also weighing up leaving the city, after losing her photography business in Merivale. Her house had also been badly damaged in the crash.

She wanted to get petrol in case she had to get out quickly.

Lines of vehicles waiting for gas at the station stretched right down Papanui Rd, but waiting motorists were calm even though they faced a 15-minute wait for gas.

'I WOULD'VE BEEN IN THERE'

CTV journalist Emily Cooper was out covering a story at Hagley Park when the quake struck.

Having lost her cameraman she rushed back to the office on foot having found the roads impassable and abandoning her car.

"I basically just thought 'I need to get back to the office'."

On the way she was told the building had been destroyed.

"You don't really think it's real but when I got back and saw it with my own eyes it's very, very hard."

She the the majority of her colleagues - around 15 people - were trapped.

"I feel guilty because it's just so hard to think that I would've been in there, I just happened to not be in there for half an hour when it hit. I just feel like 'Why me?' ... It's just very, very hard to understand."

She has returned to Latimer Square where to join others anxiously awaiting news.

"You're just waiting. There's nothing you can do, you just feel so helpless."

LEFT WITH NOTHING

In the past 24 hours Taehyun Lee has seen a man die and lost his home with almost all his possessions.

After a cold night in Christchurch's Hagley Park following yesterday's 6.3 magnitude earthquake, he flew to Wellington this morning with just the clothes on his back.

Being processed at the  Wellington Emergency Management Office set up in Toi Poneke on Abel Smith St this morning he was visibly shaken.

He is one of the up to 300 foreign nationals who have lost passports and possessions expected through the make-shift centre today.

He had lived in an apartment behind the Christ Church Cathedral and had gone for a walk outside when the earthquake struck.

He saw a man, believed to be in his 50s, parked in car when a building collapsed on him.

"People tried to get him out [but it was] almost impossible,'' Mr Lee said today.

He died on the street outside the car.

Mr Lee, a interpreter who had lived in Christchurch for 15 years, who had been about to move to Auckland, considered himself lucky as he was unusually outside at that time of the day.

His apartment building was destroyed.

He spent last night in Hagley Park and was full of praise for all the agencies which had offered support. He was given a extra pair of socks to keep him warm.

He did not know where he would go from Wellington.

"This is just time to relax,'' he said this morning. "Basically we have nothing.''

- Stuff, NZPA, Southland Times, Nelson Mail, Dominion Post, Marlborough Express, The Press