Alatinis safe at epicentre

By Joanne Carroll, Abby Gillies

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Tiara Alatini, Megan Alatini, Pita Alatini and Trey Alatini. Photo / Supplied
Tiara Alatini, Megan Alatini, Pita Alatini and Trey Alatini. Photo / Supplied

Former All Black Pita Alatini and his family were evacuated from their home close to the epicentre of the 8.9 magnitude Japan earthquake.

The former test player was in Kamaishi, one of the worst hit areas, with his wife, popstar Megan, her mother Barbara Kirchner, and their two youngest children Tiara, 7, and 6-year-old Trey.

Alatini's New Zealand-based family had an agonising 24-hour wait to hear that they had survived after receiving a text message just after the quake struck on Friday afternoon.

The 1999 Rugby World Cup inside centre plays for Kamaishi Seawaves Rugby Club.

Last night, Megan's sister Monique Cassie posted her relief on Facebook: "Just heard the best news ever! Megan and family are safe! Now I can breathe a sigh of relief!"

Phone lines to the worst hit areas remained down last night.

A teammate of Alatini's made contact with family in Australia, who informed them the Alatinis were alive and well.

Former All Black Alama Ieremia, who used to play for Japanese side Suntory Sungoliath, said he had been trying to get in touch with Alatini since the earthquake, and was "really worried" when he couldn't reach him.

Tongan-born Alatini played in 17 tests for the All Blacks between 1999 and 2001.

His family moved to Japan in 2008, after he signed with Kamaishi Rugby Team.

Alatini had just returned from a holiday in New Zealand and was celebrating his 35th birthday on the day of the quake.

Megan Alatini rose to fame on the reality television series Popstars, before going on to join girl group TrueBliss and become a judge on New Zealand Idol.

Former Waikato Rugby Union high performance manager Paul Hodder, who has coached the Kaimaishi Rugby team since April last year, was also evacuated.

His wife Krista said she was "really relieved" to hear her husband Paul was alive.

"I haven't spoken to him but I have heard [he's alive]. We don't know where they are but they are alive and all together. I just really need to hear his voice and hear he is okay," she said. She believed Paul was in his apartment at the time of the quake, which was on the ground floor of a three-storey block.

"I was talking to him on Skype on Tuesday after [another] 7.2 quake hit and 15 minutes before this quake hit I was talking to him on Skype.

"I asked him if he had felt many aftershocks and he told me there was a couple through the night after the quake but that it had gone almost eerily quiet. We had a joke about it. He told me he had planned his escape from our apartment."

- Herald on Sunday

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