AS two of the most shocking natural disasters in years, the earthquakes in Christchurch and Japan have made headlines the world over.
But for retired couple David and Jean Smith, the devastating quakes were much more than a news story. What should have been a dream holiday turned to nightmare as they found themselves caught up in both disasters.
They were in a Christchurch gallery when an 6.3 magnitude earthquake struck the city, killing 160 people.
“There was an almighty explosion and everyone started screaming,” said David (67). “We went to the floor for about 30 seconds and when we got outside I saw the museum across the road had come down. There was debris everywhere. It was devastating. This beautiful city had been demolished. There were houses down, churches down. It was shocking.”
All of their belongings, including passports and David’s diabetes medication, were buried under the rubble at their hotel. After a long wait at the British High Commission, they were issued new passports, and were free to continue their holiday.
But the terror continued when they arrived at Kahoolawe, an island off Hawaii. “It was beautiful, and we had a great time, but on the last night there was a threat that the tsunami was coming after the Japan earthquake, so we were evacuated from our rooms.,” said David. “We thought ‘what have we done wrong? Why is it following us?”
The tsunami was supposed to hit the island at 3am, but by 5am they were given the all clear to return to their rooms.
David and Jean arrived back at their home in Wingerworth on Tuesday March 15, as the devastation caused by Japan’s 9.0 magnitude quake unfolds. “I feel for them” said David. “I just really feel for them. I can’t believe it.”
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