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I think I was in shock for the day

28 February 2011

By Ellie Constantine

Kerri Kohler has just experienced the biggest week of his life.

When the earthquake struck Christchurch last Tuesday, he had just left a lecture theatre at Canterbury University.

The 17-year-old from Golden Bay, near Nelson, was in his first week of his first year of study and was talking to his mother when the Earth started to move.

"Everyone was happy when we made it. But when the power came back on at 7pm and we turned on the news, it was awful," he said.

Kerri slept under tables on the ground floor of his hall of residence on Tuesday night.

"It was a night of waking and clinging on," he said.

Next morning all but 50 of the usual 600 students were left there.

A friend offered him a ride to Dunedin and, after cramming some of his gear into a bag, he was on the road.

He was staying with friends in the meantime, but wanted to return to Christchurch to join the Student Army.

"I think I was in shock for the day. Now ... I'd like to get back. I'd like to stick by Christchurch."

He was one of about 50 groups to visit the Dunedin Civil Defence earthquake assistance centre at the Dunedin Visitor Centre i-Site during the weekend.

Staff there gave him a food voucher (his wallet was stolen this week) and have offered to help him return to Christchurch if he could not find a ride.

Neighbourhood Support regional co-ordinator Sarah Hexamer said a "steady stream" of people had come in with a range of needs.

"A lot of people just want a friendly face, a cup of coffee and a biscuit," she said.

There were also those whose passports were stuck in properties, those who needed help letting others know they were safe and those with severely traumatised children.

One man needed help to find accommodation for his entire extended family.

A house in Karitane was located and the family was looking forward to spending some time on stable ground.

Dunedin Civil Defence incident manager Des Adamson said almost 300 beds and houses in the city had been offered to people wanting respite from the quake.

The centre will be relocated to the Work and Income Community Link office, with entry off Castle St, from today.


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