Saved by a cyclone

LUCKY: Joe Partington

LUCKY: Joe Partington

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A TEENAGE backpacker from Laxey who was due to stay at a hostel flattened in the New Zealand earthquake can count himself lucky to be alive.

Former Ramsey Grammar pupil Joe Partington’s arrival in Christchurch was delayed by two days because of a cyclone.

But a fellow backpacker he met on his travels was killed in the quake.

Hopes are fading for more than 200 people still missing after Tuesday’s 6.3-magnitude earthquake - while the death toll had risen to 98 by the time the Manx Independent went to press.

Joe, 19, was in Queenstown, a six hour drive from New Zealand’s second city, when the earthquake struck, causing the bunk bed in his hostel to fall on top of him.

But he could have been in Christchurch itself when disaster struck had he not been delayed for two days by a cyclone that hit the tourist hotspot of the Bay of Islands at the tip of North Island.

‘I’m quite lucky,’ he admitted.

Joe has been backpacking on his own around the world before taking up a English Literature and History degree at Oxford Brookes university.

He spent a fortnight in Hong Kong, four weeks in Vietnam, a week in Cambodia and two months in Australia before flying to New Zealand where he was due to stay six weeks.

He said: ‘I’m in a pickle really as I was supposed to be going to Christchurch but the tour bus isn’t going there anymore and the hostel has been destroyed.

‘If it hadn’t been for a cyclone in the Bay of Islands which delayed me for two to three days I would have got there on the day of the earthquake.’

He said he spent the afternoon in a Queenstown bar watching the crisis unfold on TV.

‘It was horrible. I wondered why no one contacted me but it hit at night time in the UK and I only started getting calls and text messages the next morning.’

Joe’s mum Cal rang him up at 7am, worried but happy that he was safe.

But a friend of his was not so lucky.

A New Zealander he met on his travels, who was due to go to the same university and had lived in Manchester for a number of years, had gone ahead to Christchurch after hiring a camper van.

He had parked the vehicle outside the city’s historic Cathedral and was killed when the quake struck, reducing the landmark spire to rubble.

Joe is booked to fly back to Australia on February 28 but his travel plans have been throw into chaos by the quake.

Joe’s father is milkman Steve Partington, a Manx race walker who competed six times in the Commonwealth Games and was the assistant team manager of the Isle of Man team at the 2010 Games in Delhi last October. His mother Cal is also a former Commonwealth Games race walker.

Meanwhile, a 22-year-old from Port St Mary, who is studying mechanical engineering at Canterbury University in Christchurch, has vividly described the scene of devastation in the city.

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