Manitoba

Winnipegger prays for family's safety following powerful New Zealand earthquake

A Winnipegger with family living in New Zealand near the epicentre of a powerful 7.8-magnitude earthquake says her family is safe but are only just starting to get a sense of just how much damage has been done.

Lynley Davidson's mom and other family members live near Christchurch, New Zealand

Fissures run along a road in Wellington on Nov. 14, 2016, after a major earthquake struck New Zealand's south Island. The quake struck in a mostly rural area close to the city of Christchurch but appeared to be more strongly felt in the capital. (Ross Setford/SNPA via Associated Press)

A Winnipegger with family living in New Zealand near the epicentre of a powerful 7.8-magnitude earthquake says her family is safe but are only just starting to get a sense of just how much damage has been done.

Lynley Davidson's mom, brother and other family members live in the Christchurch, N.Z., area and were at home when the ground started trembling at about 12 a.m. local time. 

"My mom was getting a drink of water at the time," she said. "She just held on to the counter and it lasted for just over two minutes so she thought it was never going to end."

The quake prompted emergency officials to warn coastal residents to head for higher ground amid fears of tsunami waves hitting shore. Two people have been confirmed dead as a result of the quake, emergency officials said. 

Davidson said most of her family members didn't sleep because around 45 aftershocks have hit the area since the initial quake. She has been paying close attention to local TV reports from the area since early Sunday morning. 

"I woke everyone up in my house," she said. "They're just getting over the main one that was six years ago and that was 6.4." 

Davidson's mom lives about 20 minutes from the quake's epicentre. Her family's houses are all still standing and they are now just starting to get a sense of the damage. She was able to reach her mom and others on the phone Sunday morning. 

"Most people are going to try and continue their daily routine as much as possible today," she said. "My brother was getting up and getting ready and going into work." 

Officials had urged residents to stay home Monday amid concerns of structural damage to large buildings. Rail networks in the area were also shut down. 

Davidson is still going ahead with a trip she planned to the country in 10 days and while she has never experienced an earthquake, she is prepared for aftershocks to still be hitting the area when she arrives. 

But with two powerful earthquakes in less than a decade, Davidson worries for her family. 

"Every time you hear a big one like that and it's that close to where they live you're just worried," she said.

"There's nothing you can do," Davidson added. "You just pray for their safety and you pray for everyone's safety." 

Holiday plans shaken up for Winnipeg couple 

Codi Lewald and Josh Guenther woke up to panicked text messages from friends and family in Manitoba. The Winnipeg couple arrived in New Zealand on Nov. 9 and were sleeping at the base of a volcano in Tongariro National Park.

"We were asleep we didn't even know what was going on," Lewald said.

"It was pretty freaky right because any little tremor can set off this active volcano."

The couple took to the road on Sunday afternoon on the next leg of their journey, which means travelling into the New Zealand capital, Wellington. 

"We aren't really knowing what to expect when we get to Wellington but we are thinking it's going to be a little bit chaotic," Lewald said. 

From there, they are flying to Nelson on the south island, where the powerful quake had a large impact. The couple said they are lucky they didn't book the ferry across.

"One of the ferries was destroyed and the other was literally swept out to sea," Guenther said, referencing what he heard on the news. 

While they aren't sure how the quake will impact their trip, Lewald said she is trying to be optimistic. 

"It makes for a pretty cool story," she said. 

with files from Kelly Malone and The Associated Press

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