Poplar Bluff couple recalls earthquake experience

By Holly Brantley - bio | email

POPLAR BLUFF, MO (KFVS) - A Poplar Bluff couple feels lucky to be home safe in southeast Missouri after finally making it out of Christchurch, New Zealand.

They were some of the last people to see the city's landmarks in one piece before the earthquake struck last Tuesday.

Thursday leaders announced they've given up hope of finding survivors.

So far the death toll stands at more than 160. Herman and Jill Styles say they feared for their lives. They were vacationing with a group of eight. Tuesday was supposed to be their last full day in New Zealand. They were actually on a boat on the Avon when the quake hit.

"You knew what it was," said Jill Styles. "I knew within a few seconds it was an earthquake."

"The boat was shaking like someone was jerking it," said Herman Styles. "It all happened fast. The ducks exploded off the water. The trees were whipping around."

The couple says their guide told them he knew it was a big one.  Right away they headed back to shore.  Along the way what they saw and heard confirmed their fears.

"I think a lot of the noise we heard was the buildings collapsing over themselves," said Herman.

"Everybody was on their phones," said Jill. "People were crying. You were starting to see cracks in the sidewalk."

"They were amputating people's limbs to get them out of the rubble," said Herman.

Emergency workers told the couple it would be weeks before they could get back into their hotel. It's now in danger of having the one next door collapse upon it.

As they walked through the city, they couldn't believe the destruction. Just about half an hour before they boarded the boat they had been inside Christchurch Cathedral. They were among the last people to see it in one piece.

In fact, if they hadn't rescheduled their boat ride, they say they would have still been inside the Cathedral or on the streets of Christchurch as the buildings fell.

"I just thank God that we were where we were," said Jill.

They knew they had to get out of the country and began walking to the airport. A couple they met along the way ended up taking them in and eventually gave them a ride to the airport.

They spent two days waiting with hundreds of others before flying back to the states Friday.

Right now they are watching the news closely to see what happens to their hotel where many of their belongings remain, but more so they're watching out of concern for the people who were so good to them.

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