NZ earthquake rocks Aussie doctor

Dr Chris Mitchell
Dr Chris Mitchell

A LENNOX HEAD resident has described experiencing a major earthquake in New Zealand as like standing on a badly balanced washing machine’.

The South Island city of Christchurch was rocked by a 7.1 magnitude earthquake on Saturday which caused major damage to the city’s infrastructure and cut off power and water supplies.

Lennox Head general practitioner Chris Mitchell was asleep in his hotel room in Christchurch when the earthquake struck at 4.30am.

“It was quite significant. The TV fell off the table and the bed was moving around the room,” Dr Mitchell said.

“My first thought was ‘it’s an earthquake’ and I tried to stand under a doorway, but it was hard to walk straight.

“There was no power in the building so we had to go down the stairwell and there were huge cracks in the cement walls which was surprising because it looked like a well-built building.

“When I got outside I was quite surprised to see how much damage there was.

“There was debris everywhere.”

Dr Mitchell was in Christchurch attending a Royal New Zealand College of General Practice conference.

A state of emergency was declared as workers scrambled to secure buildings on the verge of collapsing.

The city was in lockdown following the quake after several people were injured by falling debris, but no one was killed.

Dr Mitchell, who visits family in New Zealand frequently, has lived through a few earthquakes there.

But he admits the latest was the worst he has experienced.

“It went for about four or five minutes, and then there were some quite significant aftershocks,” he said.

“It was a very interesting experience.

“It was early in the morning and everyone was standing in the street in their dressing gowns, barefoot, in the freezing cold and there was broken glass everywhere.

“Luckily I managed to get dressed and grab my passport as I ran out of the hotel.”

Dr Mitchell was eventually let back into his hotel to collect his things after which he hired a car and drove out of town, viewing the damaged roads and collapsed bridges that continued outside of the city.

“I think it will be very distressing for everyone because it is going to take years to get the city back to what it was,” he said.

Christchurch Airport resumed flights on Saturday afternoon, much to the relief of visitors like Dr Mitchell.

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