Ten years ago: Lucky escape in quake disaster

TEN years ago, this week, a North-East man escaped death by seconds as a powerful earthquake struck the New Zealand city of Christchurch.

Richard Coulson and his fiancee managed to flee a shop moments before the building completely collapsed.

In total the 6.3 magnitude quake claimed 185 lives, and witnesses said the three mile deep tremor, believed to be an aftershock from a 7.1magnitude earthquake that struck in September 2010, levelled high-rise buildings, tore up pavements, sprayed rubble onto the streets and caused the spire of the city’s stone cathedral to fall into the central square of New Zealand’s second city.

Days later, a North-East woman emerged unhurt from the rubble of the cathedral.

Retired solicitor Jo Cundy and her late husband, the Right Reverend Ian Cundy, Bishop of Peterborough, moved to Lanehead, in Upper Weardale, 21 years prior.

After escaping, Mrs Cundy contacted neighbours, retired scientist Ken Heatherington and his wife, Kathy, a church organist, who were also in Christchurch. They were having lunch at the city’s arts centre at the time of the quake and were unhurt.

Meanwhile, a historic day saw 150 years of Teesside steelmaking saved and with it the promise of a $1bn investment.

Sahaviriya Steel Industries (SSI), Thailand’s largest steel producer, announced it had signed an agreement with Tata Steel UK, formerly Corus, to buy the Teesside Cast Products (TCP) plant at Redcar for $469m.

Announcing the deal, SSI president Win Viriyaprapaikit said the local community had made it happen.

With more than 1,000 employees having left the plant in the space of a year since it was mothballed in 2010, the process of recruiting 800 staff, on top of the existing workforce of 700, had already begun, as well as work to restart the blast furnace.

Workers at TCP cheered as they were told the news.

Mr Viriyaprapaikit said: “It is the Teesside people who have made this happen. Without them we would not be here.”

The Northern Echo | Teesside