Northern Ireland

Dungiven woman caught in NZ earthquake

Cathy Harris
Image caption Dungiven woman Cathy Harris who has been caught up in the earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand

A Dungiven woman caught up in the earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand, has said it was the "most terrifying experience" of her life.

A state of emergency was declared after the earthquake struck at lunchtime.

At least 65 people are known to have died and more are trapped under rubble.

Cathy Harris, a former BBC Radio Foyle employee, emigrated to the suburb of Ashburton, just south of Christchurch with her young son Thomas and husband Richard in 2009.

She said the situation in Christchurch is "pretty horrendous."

"I was at home making some lunch when the earthquake hit and I just got under a table," she said.

"I know it was a much smaller earthquake than hit in September but it was much more violent. I just knew straightaway that there was going to be catastrophic damage.

"The worst thing was my son was at school so as soon as the quake finished we went straight there. Thankfully it was lunchtime and the children were all out in the playground which is where they would have been had they been evacuated to if they had been indoors.

"There were a lot of very distressed children but our boy Thomas was remarkably calm about the whole thing.

"There are still colleagues of mine I haven't been able to get in touch with, I'm hoping they are okay but it's terrible not knowing.

"When the quake hit I was just looking at the carpet watching the ground moving. It's just the most awful thing, you feel so powerless.

"It's the most terrifying experience. It's a whole new level of absolute fear.

"We are just dreading the next one. We are just trying to keep things normal for Thomas' sake and trying not transfer our fear to him, which isn't easy to do."

Image caption Rescuers are searching the debris for trapped people

The Foreign Office is offering consular assistance for anyone with concerns regarding family or friends who may be in the Christchurch area. They can be contacted on 0207 008 1500.

The Government in the Republic of Ireland has also issued a number. The Department of Foreign Affairs in Dublin can be contacted on 00 353 1 478 0822.