Ex-Queenstowners fled house, feared tsunami

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A former Queenstown couple are picking up the pieces after Monday’s earthquake.

Nevin and Sue Wright only moved into their new Kaikoura home on October 4.

They feel lucky the damage is only superficial.

“A short distance down the road a fellow lost his life, there are lots of people injured and homes have been lost.

“Our house has been quite badly damaged but we are OK. We are a lot better off than other people.”

The 7.8-magnitude earthquake, that hit near Hanmer Springs in North Canterbury at 12.02am, has left the area cut off, resulted in numerous landslides –and killed two people.

The pair have lived in Kaikoura for six-and-a-half years, running Kaikoura Gateway Motor Lodge.

They decided to sell up three months ago.

Speaking to yesterday from the quake-struck tourist hub, Nevin says the couple feared a tsunami.

Their house is only 200 metres from the ocean and 12m above sea level.

Nevin was watching golf on TV when the quake struck. Wife Sue was in bed.

His instant reaction was to get to Sue – although the shaking made it difficult to stand.

“I jumped on the bed and it moved two metres into the centre of the room. The house was swaying – I knew it was a biggie.

“We thought ‘we’ve got to get out of here’. We had to get to the car and make for high country.”

Despite the two-storey house having multiple full-length windows no glass shattered. Ornaments and household items went flying and they had to pick their steps carefully.

Once safely downstairs with dogs Keepa and Jambo, Nevin had to break open the electric garage door.

The only light was from his mobile phone – Sue’s had been lost in the commotion.

After a short drive they joined about 20 neighbours on a nearby hill.

Nevin, who used to own Queenstown Supermarket, where Reading Cinemas is now, says community support has got them through.

Nevin and Sue are staying at a nearby hotel.

They’re unsure when they will be able to go back home.

“Because there was a lot of movement we are concerned and are waiting on engineers.”

The navy arrived yesterday to help evacuate some stranded tourists and residents as well as bring in essential supplies.

Kaikoura mayor Winston Gray is holding daily information meetings and helping to distribute food.

louises@scene.co.nz