Clearing up the Christchurch quake

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MICHAEL Butler was at Canterbury University in Christchurch when the New Zealand earthquake struck.

And since the devastation occurred, he, along with many other students, has been involved in the clear-up operation.

The 22-year-old from Port St Mary, said: ‘There is a lot of liquefaction which has destroyed gardens and homes and made roads cave in. It’s just a real mess all over.

‘To help with the aftermath there are set organisations which you’re supposed to go through to help out in the main affected areas. It is very frustrating not being able to get into town, but there are large numbers of professional workers who are using specialist equipment to try and rescue people, although it’s now been said to be more of a recovery mission.

‘The latest count is more than 90 with 238 people missing for over 48 hours now, so there is grave concern for them.’

Large parts of the city are without power and water, but Michael said his house has both, although water must be boiled to make it safe to drink.

Aftershocks are ‘going to be constant,’ he said.

‘We’ve been having them for six months since the last 7.1 earthquake, so they will be a part of life for the next six months,’ he said. ‘The ones we’re experiencing now aren’t too bad when you’re out and about, but they’re strong enough to feel and still destroy damaged buildings.’

There are some ‘horrific stories’ of loss he said, too numerous to describe.

‘Some bodies just can’t be identified and DNA and dental tests are going to be the only way to identify people,’ said Michael.

He’s grateful for the messages of concern from the island, but said: ‘I’ve really got off light in this disaster. Unfortunately I can’t say the same for all my friends.’

He has no intention of leaving New Zealand and said: ‘I don’t feel like rushing home or leaving Christchurch in this time of need, there is too much we can do to help out here. But if firms and people wish to help from home they can donate online, all money and resources are going to be needed.’

Michael, whose dad Claude is former clerk to Port St Mary Commissioners and whose mum Amanda is the clerk at the Southern Civic Amenity Site, intends to finish his degree there. The university, though closed at present, has said there is no reason students can’t complete the full academic year.

‘New Zealanders are a great bunch of people. Everyone has banded together and people are coming from all over New Zealand to help. Everyone cares so much.’

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