He had just walked out of the bathroom when his home of 16 years simply crumbled around him.
<' />

Norm Butcher didn't even have time to think.

He had just walked out of the bathroom when his home of 16 years simply crumbled around him.

"I came into the middle hallway and the walls began imploding."

Mr Butcher "bounced" down the hallway and through the kitchen as the first floor above him began to crash down on top of him.

He's not sure how, but somehow he made it through the kitchen door to safety outside.

"When the walls started caving in I realised it was time to make a break for it."

The few seconds it took remain a blur, partly through the speed and the shock he was in, but also because the kitchen was black with dust from the collapsing house.

He said he could not remember thinking anything other than that he had to get out.

Outside, he collected his thoughts before venturing on to the road to see if any neighbours needed help.

"Everyone was pretty distressed. We all needed comforting."

He texted his wife, Maree, "How you," and then drove to find his 10-year-old daughter Jasmine. He had to stop about a kilometre away from the school and ran the rest of the way there. "The kids were all on the school field beside themselves."

By the time they got home his wife had arrived from work. She sank to the ground on the front lawn and cried when she saw their home in ruins.

"Some lovely people came along and gave me a hug and asked if I was all right."

They escaped September's 7.1 quake and subsequent aftershocks without major damage, but Mr Butcher knew another "good shake" could bring the house down.

Standing outside and showing the Weekend Herald what they had salvaged from inside, Mr Butcher struggled to find words to describe what had happened.

What he wants most from inside is the hard drive from the computer upstairs which contains 10 years' worth of photographs.

"I don't know what you would have pictured in your mind but it wasn't this."

Yesterday he and Maree carefully pulled what they could out of the first floor.

But they know they are the lucky ones.

"This is just bricks and mortar. Everything is replaceable ... not like those poor people in town ..."