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Makeshift toilets part of life in quake-hit city

Mountaineer saved 14 from quake-hit NZ tower
Christchurch, New Zealand (AFP) Feb 26, 2011 - A climbing enthusiast trapped in an office block wrecked during the New Zealand earthquake has told how he used his mountaineering skills to help 14 people abseil to safety before making his own escape. John Haynes was on the sixth floor of the 17-storey Forsyth Barr tower in downtown Christchurch when the quake hit Tuesday, sending debris crashing through the building and leaving a gaping hole where the internal stairwell once stood. "The guts of the building fell down 17 storeys. We just had a shell of a building," the 64-year-old government worker told the Christchurch Press.

Stranded in the darkness and fearing the structure would collapse or be engulfed by flames, Haynes racked his brains for a way to get out. His training as a mountaineer kicked in as he examined emergency equipment, including ropes and a sledgehammer, installed in the building in the wake of the September 11, 2001, attacks in the United States. Haynes persuaded his terrified colleagues that the only way to escape was to abseil 20 metres (66 feet) down the face of the building to the top of a ground floor car park, where they would be able to make their way to safety.

They used the sledgehammer to smash a window, letting in "a great flood of light", and Haynes used two ropes to begin lowering people down in an perilous two-hour operation. He wrapped the ropes around his body to ensure they did not slip through his fingers and sat on the office floor so the weight of those being lowered did not pull him out of the window, as aftershocks continued to rock the building. "It's like you were in a war zone with the shells coming over as you're still trying to do your job," he said. After the last of his colleagues reached safety, Haynes prepared for his own descent but by that time rescuers had spotted what was happening and sent a crane to get him out.

Haynes insisted he was not a hero, saying he simply felt "a real sense of satisfaction that I was able to look after those people and get them safely away". "Their lives were in my hands, and that's a hell of a responsibility." he told the Press. The 6.3-magnitude earthquake wreckage large parts of Christchurch's city centre and some outlying suburbs, leaving at least 145 dead with grave fears for another 200 missing.
by Staff Writers
Christchurch, New Zealand (AFP) Feb 26, 2011
For Christchurch mother-of-two Nicky White, the city's deadly earthquake has left no room for delicacy as her family struggles with the basics of everyday life such as finding a toilet.

Much of the city's infrastructure was crippled after Tuesday's 6.3-magnitude shake, which claimed at least 123 lives, forcing White and other residents to rely on their own ingenuity.

White, who has no lawn or garden in her apartment block in the suburb of Woolston, has taken to lining her toilet with a large plastic bag.

"I had nowhere to dig so I put a plastic bag in the toilet bowl and when it starts to fill I tie it up and put it in the rubbish bin," she said, adding that at times "it stinks the house out".

Emergency supplies of portable toilets, food and petrol were being rushed into the city, where more than 62,000 homes have no water supplies and 100,000 properties have lost their connection to the sewers.

As residents battle to bring a sense of normality to their lives, authorities were closely monitoring the health situation in the city.

One of the main concerns has been toilets for people in the most devastated eastern areas, which remain without power and water.

More than 350 people had to be removed from one of the welfare centres housing earthquake refugees because of fears there could be an outbreak of measles or diarrhoea and worries about sanitation.

The city's road network has been clogged with vehicles since the deadly quake as people head to the less affected western suburbs to stock up on food at supermarkets and to drain service stations of petrol supplies.

Civil defence officials said 200 portable toilets had been placed in the city and a further 600 were on their way.

In the suburb of Avonside, one resident -- who has refused to leave her damaged home, which was earmarked to be rebuilt after a 7.0 earthquake last September -- said the portable toilets cannot arrive soon enough.

"I've been using a bucket as a makeshift toilet and buried the contents in the garden," she said.

Christchurch mayor Bob Parker said he knew residents were going through a difficult time.

"This will not get easy in a hurry," he told a media conference.

"The next few days as we try to work as hard as possible on restoring services, we need to ask that you support us with your understanding of what we are doing."

In areas without electricity, residents have fired up their barbecues to use as community kitchens, prompting one energy company to offer free refills of LPG gas bottles.

The line of people at one service station stretched for more than 50 metres (yards) as people took advantage of the offer.

Owner Robert Wales said he was filling a bottle a minute and some of the people arriving were giving him supplies and donations to pass on to people who were struggling.

"Someone gave us NZ$100 ($75), others NZ$10, and I've told them we'll pick out the people who are really affected and give it to them."

Officials said food and petrol supplies were now reaching Christchurch and there was no need to panic buy.

Supermarket manager Justin Blackler said people had been coming from all over Christchurch to his store in the Western districts where they were mainly buying bulk supplies of essential items including food, water, candles.

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Language school became NZealand quake disaster zone
Christchurch, New Zealand (AFP) Feb 25, 2011
When Lalane Agatep boarded her flight to Christchurch last Sunday, the Filipina was laughing and thrilled at the prospect of completing an English language course to launch a new career as a nurse in New Zealand. Now the 38-year-old is now listed as missing, feared entombed with up to 120 others in the CTV building which was devastated in Tuesday's 6.3-magnitude earthquake. Her distraugh ... read more

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