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A lifeline for New Zealanders cut off after quake

After a 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck New Zealand last month we sent communications specialist Susan Cullinan to help. Susan has been working on the ground with New Zealand Red Cross and, filed this report.

Thursday December 1, 2016

New Zealand earthquake aftermath and recovery
Biddy and Bill Getz. Photo Susan Cullinan/Red Cross

Biddy and Bill Getz have been sleeping in a car ever since the massive quake struck in the early hours of 14 November.

With their home badly damaged and declared uninhabitable by local authorities, there's no prospect of them returning to it anytime soon. Their makeshift bedroom is now in the back of their closed ute, and they have no toilet or water.

More than 200 Red Cross people have been working in the worst affected areas since the quake, running community centres, going door-to-door, and distributing food, water and other essential supplies.

Red Cross disaster welfare support team volunteers have been checking on people at more than 900 houses and have distributed more than 300 food parcels, along with water, chemical toilets and medical kits.

New Zealand earthquake Bill GetzBill Getz' water tank and pump were smashed in the Kaikoura quake leaving his family without water. Photo: Susan Cullinan/Red Cross

Despite Biddy and Bill's hardship, they've put on a warm country welcome, offering Red Cross workers coffee. Nearby is the rubble of their fallen chimney, broken glass and timber.

The night the earthquake struck, Biddy says she heard a great bang. The power went out and she joked to her husband that it was the end of the world

Bill says: "We stood in the doorway hanging on. It was all you could do."

When the earthquake was over Bill says he discovered their water tank - the house water supply - had smashed to the ground, pipes and plumbing were broken, the house was cracked from the foundations up, and the chimney was dangerously loose.

Red Cross outreach worker Kerstin tells them she's tracked down a campervan they can use, which has a chemical toilet. Money is tight, as with the closure of local businesses, the couples' adult children have lost their seasonal jobs. Bill runs an engineering business from the back shed. It'll be out of action for a fortnight.

New Zealand earthquake

Biddy and Bill Getz with Red Cross disaster and welfare support worker Kerstin Hanschke. Photo: Susan Cullinan/Red Cross

Kerstin shares information about employment opportunities for the children, which brings hope. She also has information about income support. Biddy says Red Cross support has been invaluable. "We can take care of ourselves, being rural people. But it's nice to know there's somebody else that can do that. Just making sure we are doing OK. It's an assurance. It gets us back on our feet so we can look after ourselves."

New Zealand Red Cross has set up a November 2016 earthquake appeal, which has so far raised more than NZD $1.3 million. Donations can be made here. Donations from Australia are not tax deductible.