Friday, March 11, 2011

Christchurch is like a war zone

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 22 (Bernama) — “It sounds like the place has been bombed and we are in a war zone,” said a Malaysian student who survived the earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand.

Speaking to Bernama when contacted in Christchurch, Abdullah Mohd Nawi said he was in an education centre where he was teaching English when the mishap occurred.

“The quake tossed me several metres away from where I stood. My legs were badly bruised, my shoes were torn but I managed to hide under the table to avoid being hit by falling objects,” said the doctoral student of Canterbury University.

He said the situation at that moment was chaotic and he saw smoke and debris everywhere.

“Soon after I got out of the building, I didn’t know where to go. I was very scared, especially upon seeing people running around for safety and hearing sirens from police and ambulance vehicles, and fire engines,” said the father of two who later joined hundreds of other victims at an open field in Victoria Square to avoid the aftershocks.

“To get to Victoria Square, we have to wade through sewage water flowing from burst pipes and walk barefoot and in the process, sustain bruises…it was really tormenting,” he said.

Abdullah said he was saddened by the sight of other victims who were still trapped in the building, screaming for help and waving their shirts to get the attention of the paramedics and rescue teams.

Christchurch was hit by a powerful earthquake measuring 6.3 on the Richter scale today, toppling tall office buildings and leaving at least 65 people dead.

This is the second time in six months the city was hit by earthquake after the first, measuring 7.1 on the Richter scale which occurred in September last year.

Wisma Putra has reported that all Malaysians in the city, including 390 students, are in safe condition.

Meanwhile, former associate editor of The Star daily, Hah Foong Lian, who is pursuing her PhD in the city, said she escaped unhurt.

“I am fine. Rattled and shaken by what happened but I am fine. The house I am in, is still standing but just further down the road, a woman was killed under a pile of rubble in a book shop,” she said in an email to Bernama.

She said reports indicated that 65 people were killed and at least another 100 were believed to have been trapped under the rubble.

“It was just unbelievable that it is happening again. I guess we survived the first one pretty well, but this second one is terrible,” she said.

Hah said some people were too afraid to be in their homes alone as they were worried of more aftershocks.

“You don’t know when the next big one would be and it is terrifying to think you may wake up buried under a pile of rubble. I guess no one here will be able to sleep soundly tonight,” she said.

Another doctoral student at the Lincoln University, Tuan Ahmad Tuan Ismail, described the situation in Lincoln, about 20km away from Christchurch, as “a little chaotic”.

“The roads here are badly congested. One of my friends was stuck in the traffic congestion for three hours when he went to pick up his child at a kindergarten.

“It’s a mess and a state of emergency order has been issued and everyone has to stay indoors,” he said.

He said all shops and supermarkets were closed due to the earthquake.

“I’m lucky to have bought some groceries recently, so I have sufficient food supply,” he said. — BERNAMA

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