Kerikeri couple thankful to be alive after not going to Kaikoura before earthquake hit

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Andrea Tristram and Bruce Stallworthy were in Blenheim when the 7.5 magnitude earthquake hit Kaikoura.
Andrea Tristram and Bruce Stallworthy were in Blenheim when the 7.5 magnitude earthquake hit Kaikoura.

Three storeys up in his hotel room in Blenheim, Kerikeri man Bruce Stallworthy wondered how much wine he'd had to drink when the room started to shake and dance around.

Then he realised it wasn't the wine - he hadn't had that much anyway - but the steady and violent rumblings from the magnitude 7.5 earthquake that struck off Hanmer Springs, in North Canterbury, claiming at least two lives and causing widespread devastation as far away as Wellington.

Mr Stallworthy and his partner Andrea Tristram are counting their lucky stars after they were due to stay in Kaikoura on Sunday night, where there was widespread destruction.

But after a meeting with fellow Kerikeri residents Simon Bristow, Matt Cooper, Anthony Chalder-Royle and Mike Quilter - who are going from Bluff to Cape Reinga on the fundraising Super Scooter charity ride - they went to Blenheim instead.

Mr Stallworthy said they were half asleep in the Scenic Hotel in Blenheim just after midnight when things got decidedly scary.

"It started to rumble then the whole place started to dance and twist. We were very worried about the building falling down as we were three storeys up," he said.

They fumbled around in the dark and when the hotel alarms went on they evacuated to the carpark, where they waited for three hours for the all-clear. But sleeping was hard to come by as a series of aftershocks rocked the country.

"I haven't been through [an earthquake] before and I'd never felt anything like it in my life. There was no real noise, just a rumbling and rolling then everything started to dance around and twist ... I don't really want to feel another one again in my life to be honest," Mr Stallworthy said.

'"I'm just so thankful we decided not to stay in Kaikoura. That place was devastated."

The couple will return to Kerikeri today.

Dr Bristow is a trustee of Bald Angels which supports local children in need and has chosen to fundraise for the charity on the scooter ride.

Mr Cooper's cause is the New Zealand Lung Foundation, while Mr Chalder-Royle is behind The Champion Centre in Christchurch which supports children with special needs.

Dr Bristow said he was asleep on the second floor in a room below Mr Stallworthy when the quake hit.

Damage along the Kaikoura coastline from the 7.5 M earthquake that struck north Canterbury on Monday.
Damage along the Kaikoura coastline from the 7.5 M earthquake that struck north Canterbury on Monday.

"I was fast asleep and I've never experienced anything like it. The whole building was shaking so I jumped out of bed and tried to stand up but I couldn't. I thought 'holy heck what do I do here?' he said.

"There was a bit of blind panic wondering what's going on as all the lights went out. So I grabbed some clothes and went outside. The whole place was really shaking for about 30-40 seconds.

"The aftershocks were pretty awful, but after a good while we came back in and went into the restaurant area and saw all the glasses and bottles that had been smashed from the quake. It was absolutely amazing, but scary ... the whole place was shaking like a plate of jelly."

He is thankful they made the decision not to stay in Kaikoura to make it a bit further up the country.

"Luckily we saw Bruce earlier and said we were not going to stay at Kaikoura as planned so why not come to Blenheim. I'm just so pleased we did," he said.

"If we'd stayed in Kaikoura we'd be trapped with our scooters and we were hoping to be back before Saturday so I can take part in the Kerikeri half marathon. I may not make that now, but we'll be there for the street party afterwards fundraising."

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