Christchurch, New Zealand (AFP) Feb 23, 2011
Nearly 26 hours after becoming trapped in the rubble of her office building in earthquake-shattered Christchurch, Anna Bodkin emerged alive and giggling in a "miracle" rescue Wednesday.
Veteran rescue workers burst into applause at the end of their painstaking operation in the main city of New Zealand's South Island, relieved at their success and seeing hope more survivors will be found among 300 people still unaccounted for.
At least 75 people are known to have been killed and Christchurch mayor Bob Parker described Bodkin's rescue as "a miracle", saying it offered "hope and optimism" for those still missing following Tuesday's devastating 6.3 quake.
Bodkin's husband Graham was on hand to greet her and said "she giggled" as she was pulled clear of the ruins of the Pyne Gould Corporation building, wrapped in blankets and taken to hospital for a medical check up.
"She was very chirpy and in good health," said Grant Lord, the police officer overseeing the rescue operation.
"It would appear she has hidden under a desk and was able to move around while calling out to rescuers."
With tonnes of rubble above and below where Bodkin lay, urban search and rescue personnel from New Zealand and Australia worked in shifts to reach her without dislodging further masonry that would have destroyed the rescue.
Cries of "hush" and "quiet" rang out occasionally, producing an eerie silence as the rescuers listed to make sure Bodkin was still alive as they switched between drills and more delicate equipment to reach her.
When they first broke a small hole into the room where Bodkin was sheltering a small bottle of water was taped to a 1.5 metre (yard) pole and passed through to her.
It took another two hours before they were able to bring her out.
"I've never seen anything like that in New Zealand," opposition leader Phil Goff said as he watched the rescue.
"We're talking about first world buildings," he said, amazed at the level of destruction in the city where the ruins of historic stone buildings and modern glass-fronted edifices were scattered across the landscape.
In a city that prided itself on having strict building codes that meant no loss of life when a 7.0 quake hit six months ago, this latest tremor of magnitude 6.3 has had a much more lethal impact.
The landmark Christchurch Cathedral, symbolic heart of the city, is now a tomb, burying an estimated 20 people who were inside its imposing spire when it toppled to the ground on Tuesday.
The immediate search and rescue focus is on the central city where the streets were crowded with lunchtime shoppers when the quake struck.
The "Open" and "Welcome" signs outside the shops and restaurants are still there, surrounded by rubble and with no customers in sight.
Police Superintendent Russell Gibson said the city centre was ruined.
"Everywhere you look there is just absolute carnage," he said.
The situation is as bad in the outlying suburbs, where the rescue effort has yet to arrive.
People stood in the streets weeping and stared in disbelieve at their shattered homes and lives amid frequent aftershocks, some measuring magnitude 5.0 or higher.
Roads were again torn up and houses severely damaged in the suburb of Avonside, which suffered the most devastation in the September shake.
The port area of Lyttleton and affluent beach districts of Sumner and South Brighton were also been hard hit.
Liquifaction, a grey mud caused when the quake turns the earth into a fluid, spewed up from the ground in scattered pockets, burying cars to their windows.
Other cars and trucks toppled head first into sinkholes in the road, leaving their rear end and back wheels sticking up in the air.
The airport and roads leading out of the city were packed as people fled.
Moss Leauga said he wanted to drive his family to Nelson at the top of the South Island but progressed only a few hundred metres in 90 minutes on the clogged roads, so headed to the airport to fly to the North Island.
"It's good to be on solid ground that's not going to move," he told Stuff website.
"This one felt by far worse than the first one. It is one of the worst things I've been through.
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Residents of the seaside Haitian town of Leogane, which was largely destroyed by the January 2010 earthquake, would love to rebuild, but first they have to get past the mounds of rubble. The good news, if you can call it that, is that engineering assessments conducted by the government and the United Nations show only about 50 percent of Leogane's buildings collapsed, unlike the 80-90 percen ... read more
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