Irishman trapped in devastated earthquake building

Image caption,
A statue lies where it fell in Cathedral Square, Christchurch, after the earthquake

One of two Irishmen missing after the New Zealand earthquake is trapped in a collapsed building, the Irish Foreign Affairs Department has confirmed.

The man, who is in his 40s and married with children, had been living in New Zealand for some time.

The department said it was hoping for good news later on the man who is trapped in the Pyne Gould Guinness building.

A second Irishman is also among the 225 people missing since Tuesday.

A Northern Ireland couple have revealed they were lucky to survive the earthquake which has claimed 98 lives.

Tony and Rosemary Irwin from Dungannon, were due to visit Christchurch Cathedral on Tuesday when it struck.

Mrs Irwin said her husband had saved her and was a "hero".

She said he had pushed her into a shop doorway in a bid to escape the devastation

"On that very morning we had decided to go up to visit the lovely cathedral and have a tour," she said.

"We were at the very top of the street when the most incredible quake happened, the ground both rolling and rising.

"My husband is a hero in this because it was his quick thinking that saved us both."

Around 20 people are believed to have died after the spire collapsed at the cathedral.

Police are still searching for more than 200 people in the city following the 6.3 magnitude earthquake that devastated the city.

There are 17 Irish people still unaccounted for.

Mr Irwin described the situation which they encountered as the earthquake started to take effect.

"It was a choice between going out onto the street or getting under a doorway into a building that might collapse," he added.

"There is really not very much time to think about it, but I could see the bricks coming down and I just grabbed Rosemary and rolled her into a shop doorway and we just stayed there huddled in the corner until it was over.

"There were bricks raining down and the shaking was astonishing.

"When it all stopped there was absolute silence.

Owen McKenna

"The noise must have been horrendous, but I don't remember hearing any of it."

Meanwhile, tributes are being paid to the Irishman who died in the New Zealand earthquake. He was 41-year-old Owen McKenna, originally from Emyvale in County Monaghan.

He was married to a woman from New Zealand and had two children of primary school age. He trained as a nurse in London but moved to New Zealand after meeting his wife.

His car was crushed under falling debris during the quake in Christchurch.

His mother and wider family circle still live in the Emyvale area.

Rescue teams in Christchurch have been searching the rubble for survivors and the government has declared a national state of emergency.

An emergency number has been issued for those concerned about friends and family in Christchurch.

The number to contact in New Zealand is 00 64 78 50 21 99.

The New Zealand police website is

The Department of Foreign Affairs in Dublin has also issued a contact number for anyone with concerns about family or friends in the Christchurch area. The number is 003531 4180222

The Foreign Office is also offering assistance to British citizens who have been caught up in the earthquake in New Zealand. The number to call 020 7008 8765.

More on this story