Christchurch earthquake: Miracle rescue a ray of hope amid despair

By Derek Cheng

Rescue workers on the collapsed Pyne Gould Guiness building, from where Ann Bodkin was pulled uninjured today. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Rescue workers on the collapsed Pyne Gould Guiness building, from where Ann Bodkin was pulled uninjured today. Photo / Mark Mitchell

A woman who was trapped but uninjured in a narrow, cramped space in the pancaked PGG building for just over 25 hours has now been rescued.

Ann Bodkin was carried out on a fire truck ladder this afternoon.

Her husband Graham Richardson spoke to the Herald about the amazing rescue.

When asked if he held any hope that Ann was alive overnight, he said: "You always hope. I had lots of people around me helping and praying that she'd be fine."

He said the rescuers were "just unbelievable".

"Seeing those guys in the building with an aftershock going on is just scary as.

"It takes so long to get someone out. It's just amazing.

"I can't believe the job they've done. Getting her out is just stupendous. I'm a very happy man. I obviously feel for all the other people waiting to hear."

Mr Richardson said when Ann came out, she couldn't even turn to look at him because of her neck brace and she just giggled.

He said he couldn't describe the feeling when he was told that she was still alive inside the building.

"I was told to get myself down here because she was asking for me. I didn't break any speed limits but I got here pretty quickly."

Christchurch mayor Bob Parker also witnessed the rescue. "When she came out, she said to her husband, Graham: "I didn't know if I was going to see you again, but I was determined to see you again."

Graham was in "an incredibly emotional state," said Mr Parker.

"That moment of connection and relief was just palpable."

Ann Bodkin was immediately taken away for a medical check-up after being rescued.

"She was complaining of being a bit sore because she was on one side for a long time," said Mr Parker

"In the midst of what has been by and large one of the bleakest days in the story of our city, the sun came out at the same moment as they removed Ann from that building.

"They got Ann out of the building and God turned on the lights.

"They got a blanket in underneath her and there was painstaking work to cut back the concrete and the steel. They moved her out very gently to the end of the ladder and it was extraordinarily emotional.

"The rescuers then put a pair of sunglasses on her because she'd been in the dark for so long.

"Ann is one of the miracles of the day. When you feel something like that it's a moment of hope and optimism."

Grant Lord, the officer in charge of the rescue site at the PGG building, earlier said the team was trying to access to Ann from underneath where she was, but if that didn't work they were going to go through the top of the building.

He said the woman did not appear to be injured and was actually "very chirpy" and in good health. The woman had taken cover under a chair or a desk when the earthquake had struck.

Ann was the fourth survivor to be pulled from the PGG building today.

Rescue efforts stopped at CTV

Earlier, rescue efforts were stopped at the CTV building as searchers had seen no signs of life in eight hours, but it is believed it may also have been because of the danger from the nearby Hotel Grand Chancellor, which is on the verge of collapse.

Herald reporter Catherine Masters, who has been outside CTV, says the rescue effort is now focusing on buildings where people are known to be alive, such as the Pyne Gould building, where rescuers believe as many as 50 people might have survived yesterday's quake.

The Fire Service said reports of 15 people being pulled alive from the devastated CTV building in Christchurch were based on out of date information.

A spokeswoman for the organisation said all rescue operations at the collapsed and burning central city building have been suspended and handed over to police.

There had been no signs of life for hours and it was unlikely there would be more survivors, she said.

Nancy Wu, whose husband Paul Wu is among the missing in the CTV building, said news that search and rescue workers were putting efforts at the site on hold was "devastating".

"But hopefully they will return and not give up because people can still be alive for many hours. We are not giving up hope."

A Christchurch Police spokesman acknowledged operations had been suspended at the site, but said emergency services were waiting for heavy machinery to arrive.

Earlier reports had suggested 15 people have been rescued after more than 20 hours amid fire and devastation in the Canterbury TV building.

Police said they had recovered 75 bodies after the quake - 20 of which had not yet been identified - and Prime Minister John Key declared a national state of emergency.

Information about what's been damaged in the aftermath of the magnitude 6.3 earthquake and where people can get help:


View Christchurch earthquake: Map of the destruction in a larger map

- With Jarrod Booker, Hayden Donnell, NZPA, NZ Herald staff

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