herald

Friday 17 August 2018

Dublin sisters tell of their earthquake nightmare

TWO Dublin sisters Dublin have told of their lucky escape as they were caught in the centre of New Zealand's devastating earthquake.

Emily and Leah Heron from Swords, who now live in Christchurch, said today they were "blessed" to survive unscathed, after the 6.3 magnitude quake hit early yesterday morning, Irish time.

Leah Heron (24) works in Christchurch City Council and was about to go on her lunch break when the tremor struck.

"The whole building started to shake, I stood up to run but it was too strong," she told the Herald today. "I got underneath my desk ... computers and filing cabinets fell to the ground, the windows were smashed.

"It lasted about thirty seconds and then everyone started to run for the exit. It was chaotic. We went down the fire escape and there were bricks falling everywhere.

"About a minute later, a violent aftershock happened. More buildings started to crumble. We just ran as fast as we could into open space. There were whole buildings flattened in the centre of town. It was very still and quiet for a few seconds ... just horrific," she added.

There were scenes of devastation as Leah walked through the city.

"There was rubble and liquid everywhere and I could see bodies on the streets.

"There were people screaming and cars completely flattened. A lot of my colleagues in the City Council went straight to work- after the last earthquake in September. Everyone knew what to do. But I was so worried about my sister.

Terrifying

"The phone lines were down so I was texting my boyfriend and my sister Emily and all of my friends ... it was terrifying waiting for the replies. Eventually we found each other and got out of the city as fast as we could, I just wanted to be with my sister."

Leah's sister, Emily (27), was at home when the tremor struck and one wall of her apartment completely collapsed.

"I had just had lunch and sat down on the couch and the house started shaking. I jumped up and ran into the bedroom and got into the wardrobe," Emily says. "I can't even remember doing it. It was so scary. When it stopped, I tried to go out the back door but it was jammed. The streets were filled with water and sewage and whole cars were swallowed up."

Emily's boyfriend, Óisin Lavelle from Inis Bofin in Galway, was doing tiling work in a city centre hotel. He had just come down form the seventh floor to the basement to have lunch when the earthquake happened.

"He was blessed to be where he was ... if he had waited a couple more minutes to have his lunch, it could have been much worse," Emily revealed.

The two girls' parents are totally shocked by the whole experience.

Patrick Heron, their father, says the first few minutes were the worst.

"We got the text and immediately tried to call them, but the phone lines were down. It was terrifying not being able to hear their voices- that's all you want to hear, to know they're OK," he said.

hnews@herald.ie

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