In the heart of a disaster- Richard’s NZ quake terror

Incredible tale of Branscombe man caught in the epicentre of an earthquake.

RICHARD Fuell arrived in New Zealand last weekend to visit his sister Natalie.

He was discovering Christchurch on Tuesday and “so happy to be in such a lovely relaxed place with friendly people.”

Then disaster struck.

Twenty-nine-year-old Richard, of Parkfield Terrace, Branscombe, describes in his own words how he fled the heart of the city as devastation and tragedy unfolded around him.

He thinks a simple decision to turn right instead of left could have saved his life.

The 6.3 magnitude earthquake began as he waited to cross the road in the city centre.

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“We started to walk across the road and then boom!” said Richard.

“The ground was going crazy. It was like being on a bouncy castle.

It lasted for about 10 seconds- moving from left to right, back and forwards.

It was utterly incredible, completely unreal, and the scariest, most uncontrollable feeling I’ve ever known.

Looking down the road we had just walked from, building bricks were coming down. We saw the famous cathedral tower falling. It was like it exploded. As it smashed on the ground all the dust and smoke engulfed the whole of the area. I’ve only seen something like that before on television, and that was on September 11.

The ground was still shaking extremely violently. It was unbelievably frightening. we saw another puff of dust from another direction. It didn’t seem real.

We sought refuge in a car park- the biggest open area we could find.

Nearby there was a three-storey car park reduced to one storey- with cars hanging off.

Natalie was constantly on the phone trying to contact her friends in Christchurch who were around the area of the cathedral. She couldn’t get through.

Buildings that had fallen down on top of cars, some with people in, and there were members of the public trying to get them out.

The sound of people crying and weeping was only heard over the car alarms that were going off everywhere.

The ground opened up in some areas. There was a 15 to 20 centimetre gap between the pavement and the road, and cracks all over the place.

Main roads looked like a war zone- completely ruined. Everywhere you looked, buildings, walls, roads, were all just devastated.

Grey water was gushing up from the ground everywhere.

More people gathered, telling stories of how scared they were for their lives.

Then, boom, again, another earthquake.

They call them aftershocks. My god, its not a shock, it’s just as bad as the first one.

They should be called after-quakes.

Cars were moved by the force, street lights swayed so powerfully. With that, more buildings fell down.

We didn’t know what to do or where to go.

The side of buildings had fallen over the road. It was like something from a film, but it wasn’t, it was real life.

Every five minutes the earth moved, buildings would shake. Noise would come from nowhere. It was just unreal.

We were scared, so very frightened, and powerless.

We wanted to get back home, to go where we thought it was safe. We went away from the city centre. As we passed one road we saw a public bus completely crushed. We later found out several people were seriously injured on this bus and three people had died.

It was only two roads away from where we were stood when the earthquake hit.

Thousands of people and hundreds of cars were all trying to escape the city.

It was all so unbelievable. We passed around 20 buildings that had fallen down, a bridge that was about to go with massive cracks, and about three churches either on the ground as rubble or with sections completely destroyed.

When I was at the house I was staying in, the sheer power of the earthquake became clear to me. Contents of the pantry were all over the floor in the kitchen. Dinner plates, wine glasses, cups and ornaments were all destroyed. Mirrors and paintings had come off the walls and even the TV had been tossed off the stand like it was weightless.

All afternoon a helicopter flew above dropping water on a burning building.

There were broken buildings and unstable structures everywhere. Cars were flattened at the side of the roads.

All this was only 30 minutes after the earthquake struck. Everywhere you turn in the city you can just see devastation.”