WORLDS AWAY

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A FAMILY have swapped one Christchurch for another after temporarily relocating to the Fenland village from New Zealand following the devastating earthquake earlier this month.

Catherine Wilkie and her two sons, Harry (9) and Freddie (7), moved halfway across the world after their house was badly damaged in the earthquake. They are now living with Catherine’s father, Ken Britnell, in his Fen View home.

Harry and Freddie, whose New Zealand school closed after the disaster, are now attending the village’s Townley Primary School and have settled in well, despite the upheaval.

Their dad, Richard, has remained in his home country to sort out the repairs to their coastal home, but may come to the UK if he cannot make any headway before their winter sets in.

For mum Catherine, who has lived in New Zealand for the past ten years, coming to Fenland has been a chance to get away from the stress and trauma in Christchurch NZ.

She recalled the events of February 21 when the earthquake struck: “I was in town and the children were at school. Thankfully it was lunchtime and they were on the playground.

“The area was fairly close to the epicentre, so there was a lot of damage. The children saw a cliff collapse.

“I was across town and it took me several hours to get back. Luckily my husband was there to get the children. It was pretty terrifying.”

The family were thankfully unhurt but their house was badly damaged. The epicentre of the quake was at Littleton, the next bay around from where they live, and many families near them had to be evacuated.

Catherine said their house is liveable, but still needs a lot of work doing to it, which Richard is trying to arrange with insurance companies and engineers.

February’s earthquake, in which around 180 people died, followed an earlier quake that happened in September. Catherine said the earthquakes seem to be moving further towards the coast and she was concerned that if another happened, it may cause a tsunami.

“There doesn’t seem to be an immediate risk,” she said, “but it worried me. That’s why I decided to come back.

“The children are missing their dad, but I think they’re very glad to be away. The earthquake shook them up, but they coped very well. There were regular aftershocks and they thought every tremor or rumble was another one.”

Ken was very worried about his daughter when the earthquake happened and communication was difficult for a while. Catherine said he is relieved to have her away from it.