Kurt Bayer is a Herald reporter based in Christchurch

7.8 earthquake: Another tragedy for Waiau family

Peter Wallace has to leave his quake-battered Waiau house which has a memorial to his granddaughter Sophia who died aged 10 in 2011. Photo / Kurt Bayer
Peter Wallace has to leave his quake-battered Waiau house which has a memorial to his granddaughter Sophia who died aged 10 in 2011. Photo / Kurt Bayer

Peter and Jules Wallace have suffered enough. And now this.

Grand-daughter Sophia died in a tragic farm accident five years ago.

She is buried in the same plot as her wee brother Liam, who died in his cot aged five months old.

Monday's monstrous quake whipped through their house at in the tiny North Canterbury settlement of Waiau, where the Child, Youth and Family foster parents were living with six children under CYF care.

Today, Peter and Jules, who runs the destroyed playcentre in town, picked through the condemned house to retrieve family mementoes. And photographs of Sophia.

"They say what doesn't kill you, only makes you stronger. And I believe that. I have to," Peter said.

Inside is a bomb-site of cracked concrete, dusted plaster, fallen furniture, broken glass, crushed yoghurt, a toppled toilet, and kids toys.

The backyard lawn is a corrugated minefield, complete with a liquefaction river.

A memorial stone and cross to Sophia in the front garden will be transplanted to their new home - wherever that may be.

They have had offers of temporary accommodation. It's important that they get a good-sized, safe home.

At the moment, they're staying at Waiau's camping ground.

"It's been awesome," Peter says.

"The way this community is pulling together - like they did after Sophia died - has just been awesome."

The quake hit the house - on a 10-year lease - like a freight train.

Peter says it heard it rumbling towards them. He stood to check on the kids, took one step, when it erupted.

"It hit with a boom and threw me across the room," the 61-year-old said.

"I tried to get to the kids but the doors wouldn't open and stuff had tipped everywhere.

"I could hear the kids screaming. I yelled at them to get in the middle bunk and stay there."

He managed to break windows to rescue them. He brought them gumboots which they wore outside, stepping through the glass.

They made it to the local primary school where the frightened town met in the dark.

"We all sat there in the rain, happy to be alive," Peter said.

- NZ Herald

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