LIKE A THIEF AT NIGHT
There were about 2,000 Filipinos living in Christchurch before the ground gave way beneath them in Lyttelton – the epicentre just 10-km southeast of Christ church. It was Tuesday 22 February 2011 at 12:51 PM.
At 6.3-magnitude on the Richter scale, it was not as powerful as the earlier magnitude-7.1 earthquake of 04 September 2010. But the Lyttleton earth-shaking episode occurred on a fault line that was shallow and close to the city. So the shaking was more violent and destructive. Deadly, to be more precise.
In the city, many people were on the city streets making their way back to work from lunch break. Most of them were the lucky ones. This quake brought down or seriously damaged many buildings not previously affected during the September 2010 earthquake. Liquefaction was much more extensive.
The Lyttleton natural disaster was so traumatic that a 30-million ton block of ice sheared off a New Zealand glacier and crashed into a nearby lake just minutes after the violent trembler devastated the city of Christchurch. It created waves up to 3-metres high for 30-minutes and rocked two sightseeing boats on the lake at the time.
In the aftermath, some of the more iconic buildings in Christchurch and its suburbs crumbled – the Anglican Christchurch Cathedral, the Catholic Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament, the Provincial Council Chambers and Lyttelton’s Timeball Station. The CTV Building was another casualty, but with a difference. It housed an English Language school where many young students from other lands were attending class.
Like a thief at the night who swiftly departs with his booty, the final death toll was 185 people but 116 people were killed in this building alone. Eleven of them were Filipinos. In memory of them, among others, this is who they were.
Watch The Video
This video montage was prepared by Filipino Artists in New Zealand, Inc. as a touching tribute to the victims of the February 2011 quake in Christchurch, New Zealand. Production credits are supplied at the end of the clip.
UNDER ALL THE RUBBLE
Rhea Mae Sumalpong, a 25-year old lass from the province of Cebu in the Philippines, was among those trapped in the CTV building. She had been studying English at Kings Education School on the third floor in preparation for her New Zealand Nursing Board exams on March 13 when the quake struck.
Pinned down by her legs in the rubble, Rhea Mae managed to survive for several hours after the initial collapse. Her legs were totally numb. She couldn’t feel any pain. But she was able to communicate with the outside world using her mobile. About 30-minutes after the quake created havoc in the central city, Rhea Mae sent a text message to her mother Marlene in Australia. She begged her for assistance. “Mum, we’re trapped at CTV building. We need help, please rescue us.”
She and five other Filipino students – Emmanuel Anoba, John Kristoffer Chua, Ezra Mae Medalle, Jessie Lloyd Redoble and Jewel Francisco Uy, were under all the rubble of the collapsed ceilings and floors. Hours passed. No rescue and relief was in sight. Night fell, the texting stopped.
I FOUND THAT PLACE
Later, an aunt of Rhea Mae – Dr. Ethel Uy, told newspapers in Manila she had made several attempts later to reach her niece by phone but was unsuccessful. She was concerned about reports coming in that hopes were fading for people still inside the crumpled structure.
“We’re hoping for the best for Rhea and the rest of the group,” she said. “We are praying to God for a miracle. Our wish is to have our niece’s body back, but of course nothing is impossible with a miracle,” she added.
Days later, when search and rescue teams finally combed the charred ruins of the building her remains mysteriously could not be found. Not even a trace of her DNA could be matched. Perhaps God needed her more than her loved ones back home and took her away.
If that be the case, may these words comfort the relatives and friends of those who still feel the pain and sorrow of grief. Hear the voices of your departed loved ones as they would say:
Don’t grieve for me, for now I’m free. I’m following the path God laid for me.
I took his hand when I heard him call. I turned my back and left it all.
I could not stay another day to laugh, to love, to work or play.
Tasks left undone must stay that way, I found that place at the close of the day.
If my parting has left a void, then fill it with remembered joy.
A friendship shared, a laugh, a kiss, ah yes, these things, I too, will miss.
Be not burdened with times of sorrow, I wish you the sunshine of tomorrow.
My life’s been full, I savored much, good friends, good times, a loved one’s touch.
Perhaps my time seemed all to brief; don’t lengthen it now with undue grief.
Lift up your heart and share with me, God wanted me now, He set me free.