Anna Leask

Anna Leask is a police reporter for the New Zealand Herald.

Soldier's wife thought to be trapped in cathedral

Amanda Uriao with husband Ngati and new-born baby Samara Lee in 2003. Photo / Supplied
Amanda Uriao with husband Ngati and new-born baby Samara Lee in 2003. Photo / Supplied

The devoted wife of a soldier is among the missing in the rubble at the Christchurch Cathedral.

Amanda Uriao, known as Mandy, is believed to have been in the cathedral when the quake hit.

A relative at her Christchurch home confirmed last night that she was missing but said the family were not ready to speak about what had happened.

Mrs Uriao's husband, Ngati, has served with the Army as a soldier in Afghanistan and Timor. The family featured in a local newspaper when Mr Ngati was deployed overseas just weeks after their first child, daughter Samara Lee, was born in 2003.

Mr Uriao, then a private, had just five days with Samara before he left for Afghanistan.

He was photographed kissing and hugging Mrs Uriao and Samara at Christchurch Airport the day he left.

He was away for four months, serving alongside 100 other Kiwi personnel. Much to his wife's delight, Mr Uriao returned home on December 22, in time for his daughter's first Christmas.

"It's the best Christmas present we could ever wish for," Mrs Uriao told The Press at the time.

"It's just amazing. I can't describe how great it is. I look at them and tears come to my eyes just to see them together. It's so funny, they look the same. It's like big rascal and little rascal."

Mr Uriao returned to Afghanistan in 2005, eight weeks after the couple's son Jayden was born.

It is not known why Mrs Uriao, 38, was in the cathedral last Tuesday or who she was with.

Family and friends gathered at her home last night to support her husband and children, who she described on her profile on a social networking site as "cute".

Mrs Uriao grew up in Christchurch and attended Papanui High School.

Police believe up to 22 bodies remain inside Christchurch Cathedral and its spire.

The Very Rev Dean Peter Beck has asked the teams to do all they can to ensure the "graceful removal" of the bodies.

"They are working in the broken heart of Christchurch. That's why we are concerned that such great care is taken with this bodies being recovered, he said last week.

He has no idea how many people were in the spire or the cathedral at the time the quake struck but believes most were probably overseas tourists.

His staff are planning a prayer service once the bodies are found.

For the first time yesterday, families of the dead and missing were able to lay tributes to their loved ones in Cathedral Square.

Flowers, cards, soft toys, photos, children's drawings - even chocolate bars and a packet of Tim Tams - have been placed in the shade under a tree in the middle of the square. The memorials were laid during the two minutes' silence at 12.51pm.

The families of the missing were unable to visit the site - it is still too dangerous - but the ceremony was filmed for their viewing.

One note reads: "Des, if you are still out there hanging on, you are going to have to put your hand up high - miss you heaps, Mum."

- NZ Herald

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