A HALIFAX woman caught in the New Zealand earthquake has spoken of her terror. Flo Guthrie, 22, from Savile Park, Halifax, was shopping in the centre of Christchurch when the devastating tremor hit the South Island. She was thrown to the ground
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injured and spent an agonising four hours trying to find safety as aftershocks rocked the city.
Flo, who lives in Queenstown – almost 300 miles from Christchurch –was visiting the city with a friend.
They had decided to spent an extra five minutes in a clothes shop in Oxford Street, in the heart of the city, when the quake hit just after noon.
She said: “Everything was falling everywhere. The mannequins fell across the store. I fell r and hit my back.
“I couldn’t focus. The people in the shop were telling us to get down but I just couldn’t function,” she said. “I was like jelly.” .
As people tried to take cover, Flo and her friend Alana ran outside, trying to find safety.
“All we could see was people standing in the street screaming.
“There were businessmen and older people standing in the street crying,” she said.
They tried to find the emergency services to ask what they could do to help.
But buildings continued to crumble after the quake, which measured 6.3 on the Richter scale.
“There were people pulling at the rubble, others were bleeding, some wrapped in bandages, crying. We just felt helpless.
“We couldn’t help ourselves, let alone other people,” she said.
Panic began to spread as people began to run. As the friends, ran they came across bodies lying in the street.
They found an open area and watched the carnage unfold.
“It was like it wasn’t happening,” she said. “I didn’t know what to think. It was like being in a movie,” said Flo, a former Holy Trinity school pupil.
She said the worst part of her ordeal was people trapped under the rubble and passers-by trying in vain to rescue them.
“I remember seeing a dead man, lying on the floor with his dog beside him whimpering. It was horrible.”
They were moved into a bigger open space in case more buildings collapsed and found themselves in the car park of the Polytechnic University.
A nearby recreation centre was turned into a rescue centre and served food to survivors. As they waited for news they counted more than 12 aftershocks.
“I just wanted to get out of the city. I kept looking up at the helicopters, thinking I just want to get out.”
As they sat in the rest centre, a nearby man was listening to the radio, updating them about the devastation.
“At first he said there were three people dead. I remember thinking how horrible that was,” she said.
“In the next few hours it upped to 10 people.”
Now the death toll currently stands at 102, with more than 200 still missing.
Flo and her friend hitched a lift to Mossburn, where Flo’s ex-boyfriend Ben arranged for friends to take the shaken pair in.
Flo finally managed to get through on her mobile phone and called Halifax to make contact with her mum Stella.
Because the quake hit during the night in England, she broke the disastrous news to her family at 6am our time.
“She was just so happy I was OK,” said Flo.
Her car and most of her belongings remain buried under rubble in the main street in Christchurch.
“The car will be crushed. It’s lying under a building.”
Flo went to New Zealand aged 18 only planning to stay for four months.
Flo, and her brothers Marcus and Tom are triplets.
Her older brother Jamie is at University. Flo now works in a five-star golf resort.
“It has scarred me for life,” she said, “It was just so surreal.
She said even now as she watched the continuing rescue efforts she couldn’t believe she found herself in the middle of the trageedy.
“I am still shaken and shocked. I am so lucky. So many people died and I’m still here and I standing there, right on the main street.”