A WEEK on from the massive earthquake that devastated Christchurch, a Berwickshire native is right at the heart of efforts to try and restore some sort of normality to the stricken New Zealand city.
Calum McNeil, from Eyemouth, only moved into his house in Peterborough Street, in the centre of Christchurch, four days before the tremor hit and caused significant damage to the property, destroying many of his personal belongings in the process.
Among the items that perished were some new suits Calum had bought the day before for his new job at New Zealand energy firm Meridian, which he was due to start on the day of the quake.
Although Meridian’s offices weren’t reduced to rubble they have been rendered out of use, so instead of being behind a desk for the past week, Calum joined the ranks of Christchurch’s Student Volunteer Army who have been hard at work trying to clear debris.
The 27 year old, who went over to New Zealand at the end of last year, said that even though everyone is still shell shocked by the events of February 23, people were trying to stay upbeat.
Ringing ‘The Berwickshire News’ after a hard day’s work, Calum said: “I’ve effectively been given two weeks off work while Meridian try to find some new office space so I decided to sign up to be a volunteer. Working together we’ve managed to shift 120,000 tonnes of silt and sludge already but there’s still a lot of work to be done.
“I’m at it eight hours a day in 25 degree heat so it’s fairly tough going but there’s a really good community spirit and you get old ladies coming round with sandwiches. The earthquake has completely changed the city, and a lot of people lost their homes. I’m just glad I wasn’t in mine when it hit. I was walking through the park at the time and it completely knocked me off my feet. I didn’t really know what had happened and it wasn’t until I noticed streams of office workers running from the centre that I knew it was quite serious.
“My landlord’s been a great help. Fortunately, two students moved out of one of his other flats a few weeks ago so I’m living there now. It’s in one of Christchurch’s suburbs, Riccarton, and it’s strange just how little impact the earthquake had over here. Looking out my window you wouldn’t be able to tell it had happened.”