Christchurch earthquake: Text messages carry fear and love


A digger demolishes the oldest house on Bealey Avenue on Feb. 26, 2011, in Christchurch, New Zealand.


Hannah Johnston

As New Zealand continues its search for the hundreds still missing after last week's 6.3-magnitude earthquake in Christchurch, tales are surfacing of how people trapped in collapsed buildings communicated with their loved ones, often sending messages of fear and love via text messages.

One mother living in the Philippines received a text message from her daughter in New Zealand, "Mommy, I got buried." And then, 40 minutes later, "Mommy, I can't move my right hand."

The daughter, Louise Amantillo, 23, was one of dozens of foreign students missing after the six-story Canterby TV (CTV) building collapsed Tuesday, AP reports.

Amantillo called her parents, Linda and Alexander, in the Philippines, asking them to send help.

"We told her, `You can make it, you can make it. Be strong and pray,' " Alexander Amantillo said.

Their daughter continued to send text messages, one every five to seven minutes, until the last one: "Please make it quick."

The death toll from the quake rose to 145 on Saturday amid fears that another 200 remain missing.

Prime Minister John Key said the quake "may be New Zealand's single most tragic event."

Key has said emergency operations would shift from rescuing survivors to body recovery, and that finding anyone alive would be a "miracle," despite the participation of hundreds of people reportedly going building to building using sound detectors, thermal imaging equipment and cameras.

Not all of the text message tales have ended in what appears to be a tragedy.

After Emma Howard, 23, got trapped under a collapsed building Tuesday, she sent a text message to her fiance: "It's Emma here. I'm OK and I love you very much."

Her fiance, Chris Greenslade, was across town when the quake struck and raced to find Howard, who was trapped in a tiny cavity between trapped floors of a collapsed office building.

Greenslade dug through the rubble to find Howard, while sending her reassuring text messages, such as "I'm with your parents. I love you. There are lots of men trying to get you out."

Greenslade and the rescue team managed to pull Howard out of the rubble. The two married Friday, just 72 hours later.

A guest at the wedding, Tania Hill, told the New Zealand Herald she understood why the couple continued the wedding as planned.

"At times like this you realize how fragile things are."


-- Hanna Ingber Win

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