Ipswich: New Zealand quake survivor tells of most terrifying moment of her life

IPSWICH: A survivor of the devastating New Zealand earthquake sent a desperate text home to reassure her parents that she was safe as building collapsed around her.

Elicia Gilbert, 22, managed to contact parents Wendy and Colin Gilbert, in Everton Crescent, Ipswich, yesterday morning.

She was at work when the earthquake struck the port town of Lyttelton, near Christchurch, on the east coast of the South Island, on Tuesday at 1pm local time.

Last night the death toll stood at 65 but that figure is expected to rise.

Elicia, who is on a working holiday in the country, said: “It was the most terrifying moment of my life.

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“I can’t explain what it was like, the roaring as it happens is unbelievable.

“I was at work, in an office, everyone dived under their desks. The ceiling was coming down and I watched tiles fall to the ground.

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“Everyone was running in the street and even the strongest of people were in tears.”

Elicia, who sent an e-mail to The Evening Star describing her ordeal, said it took her two hours to get home from work, a journey that included driving over a collapsed bridge.

She added: “When I finally made it home to my very flooded street, I was grateful to see my house still standing as many weren’t.

“However, the inside wasn’t so good. The house may have been standing but nothing in the house was. The TV and microwave were on the floor, all appliances moved away from the walls, lights smashed, and all food contents ruined and on the floor.”

Elicia and her housemates managed to cook using a barbecue.

She said: “A barbecue may sound exciting, but not when you have no plates or anything to eat with and no kitchen table to eat on and everyone is just diving in and eating straight from the barbecue.”

With a badly damaged house Elicia and her friends were forced to sit in the garden.

She said: “We moved the inside sofa out to our front garden and ten of us sat there until it was dark, the house was very much out of bounds due to the state of it and glass being everywhere.”

She told how it took 12 hours for the power to be reconnected and they were still without water when she contacted us.

“When we do have water it will have to be boiled,” she added. “In times like this you realise how much we take for granted.”

With much of the city’s infrastructure damaged following the quake, which measured 6.3 on the Richter scale, Elicia said contacting the UK has been difficult.

She added: “We are all sticking together, I don’t know what I would have done without all the love and support from friends and members of the public.

“It is awful that so many people have lost their lives and my thoughts are with their families.

“I have managed to get in contact with my family and was very pleased to hear my dad’s voice.

“I am very grateful to be alive to tell the story.”

Elicia’s mum Wendy, 49, said: “She managed to send a text early in the morning and obviously we are pleased she is safe and well.

“People have been phoning us from other parts of New Zealand asking if she is okay as they cannot contact her in Christchurch.”

Elicia is due to return to the UK in April. Wendy added: “We are looking forward to having her home.”

n A TEAM of six firefighters from Essex were due to fly out to New Zealand this morning to help with the rescue efforts following the devastating earthquake.

The Essex International Search and Rescue Team has been given the green light to help rescue efforts in Christchurch.

The team-of-six were due to fly out to New Zealand at 5am this morning.

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