Norfolk family speak of New Zealand earthquake ordeal

A former North Elmham girl spoke of the destruction that descended on her neighbourhood when the earthquake struck in Christchurch.

Samantha Bennett, 22, described how the 6.3 magnitude earthquake rocked cars, buckled roads and left her own house in disrepair when it struck her street in Cashmere Hills on Tuesday.

She was at university at the time while her mother, Beverley Bennett, a nurse, rushed on to the streets to attend the injured.

Later the family-of-five were reunited at home – finding the walls cracked and their personal belongings broken as the aftershocks continued throughout the city.

Miss Bennett, who attended Northgate High School, Dereham, said: 'My family and I are bunkered down in our lounge away from the windows and walls. Our house is badly damaged and we are not sure whether it is safe, but nowhere is safe at the moment.

'We are having constant aftershocks and it is so scary it's unreal. There are still people being pulled from the rubble and many are missing or feared dead. We live on the hill and could see fires over the city covering it in black smoke. It is so awful.'

The earthquake began at 12:51pm and Miss Bennett threw herself on to the floor as the lecture hall shook at the University of Canterbury.

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Speaking to the EDP via Facebook yesterday, Miss Bennett revealed she walked 6km before being reunited with her brother Jamie, father Paul, mother Beverley and her younger brother Jonathan.

She continued: 'I was not aware of the damage to my house or that the town where I live had been devastated. When my brother found me he told be about the destruction and I just sobbed.'

The Bennett family emigrated to Christchurch from Norfolk six and a half years ago.

Beverley Bennett, 56, who used to be a nurse at North Elmham surgery, spent five and a half hours treating people outside a supermarket and shopping centre in Christchurch where she helped pregnant women and people with head injuries.

Meanwhile, Alison Dodds, 45, originally from Great Yarmouth, moved to Christchurch several years ago.

Her sister, Hillary Reeves, said: 'She was working in the centre of the city when the earthquake hit. They managed to get out of the office unhurt but the building next door to them was badly damaged.

'Fortunately, her husband was also unhurt but their home on the edge of the city was damaged. They're still waiting to find out the extent of the damage.'

ben.woods@archant.co.uk