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Earthquake survivors mark 89th anniversary

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Survivors of the 1931 Hawke’s Bay earthquake today shared their experiences and stories over a cup of tea and scones at a commemoration hosted at Napier Boys’ High School.

Held once a year, the earthquake survivors afternoon tea drew a 100-strong crowd and featured Hawke’s Bay historian and author Michael Fowler as a guest speaker.

Napier Mayor Kirsten Wise said the event was a special occasion for people who survived the life-changing 7.8-magnitude quake, and a chance to reflect on the hard-learnt lessons of one of New Zealand’s worst natural disasters.

“The afternoon tea is our way of paying tribute to a very special group of people, where they can meet up with old friends and share memories of the day that shaped the lives of so many,” Ms Wise said.

“But it’s also a time to reflect on the lessons of that fateful day that transformed Napier and Hawke’s Bay, and the importance of knowing what to do in any future events.

“We know that preparation and planning not only increases our chance of getting through the emergency, it also helps reduce the amount of time getting our lives back to normal afterwards

“We all have a role to play in creating a resilient community, so I urge everyone to make sure they understand the risks they face and have an up-to-date emergency plan in place.”

Audrey Ford was just three years old at the time of the quake and still remembers being at the mercy of the earth’s movements.

“My mother ran and grabbed me and I thought she was playing a game with because we were being thrown against the wall,” Mrs Ford said.

“The back chimney came down so it was just as well she did pick me up; otherwise, she would have been killed.”

Mrs Ford said the earthquake had a lasting impact on her family.

“My mother used to say to me, ‘If there’s an earthquake, go out to the front gate until someone comes.’

“I think she was worried that I might try to find her and get hurt.

“I can still feel earthquakes before they come – it must be a sense within me.”

The survivors afternoon tea is jointly organised by Napier City Council, Hawke’s Bay Regional Council, Hawke’s Bay Civil Defence Emergency Management Group, Art Deco Trust, New Zealand Red Cross and Napier Boys’ High School.

They appreciate the generous support from local businesses and organisations that sponsor the event.

3 February 2020

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