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February 26, 2011

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Second escape for Shanghai man

A SHANGHAI man who as a little boy survived the massive earthquake in northern Chinese city of Tangshan in 1976 was among those caught up in Tuesday's disaster in New Zealand.

The tourist, surnamed Sun, was in Christchurch on holiday with his family and having lunch when the earthquake hit. Grabbing hold of his four-year-old son and taking his wife by the hand, he rushed out of the restaurant and into an open space outside, according to reports.

He said there was a huge bang. When they turned round to see what had happened they saw part of Christchurch Cathedral had collapsed. The family just visited it that morning.

"I once survived the Tangshan earthquake in 1976," Sun said, "and I never thought I would escape from a quake for the second time."

Sun and his family are believed to be on their way home via Hong Kong.

More than 240,000 people were killed in the Tangshan earthquake.

Meanwhile, a Shanghai tour group also caught up in the Christchurch disaster were back home yesterday morning.

The 17 - 16 tourists and a tour guide - were unhurt although deeply shocked by what had happened. But they were full of gratitude for the Christchurch residents who helped them afterward. The group were eating at a restaurant in the city when the catastrophe hit.

"There were broken glasses and tableware everywhere," said tour guide Zhao Yu. "Everyone had to hide under tables or in the corner of the room."

Three minutes later, the group emerged to find a city they no longer recognized.

The road was cracked and twisted and water gushed from burst pipes. Not far away, a building had collapsed.

Afraid of aftershocks, the group decided that they should immediately head for North Island by ferry and take a flight home from there.

"The local guide and the driver, who is also a New Zealand native, just called their family before taking us away," said Zhao. "And a local family offered us food and drink, despite the fact that their own house had collapsed."

The travel group eventually reached Wellington, and boarded a flight back to Shanghai via Auckland.

They landed at Pudong International Airport at about 6:30am yesterday.

The group were on a tour organized by the Shanghai Bashi International Travel Service Co Ltd.

Travel agencies in the city said that New Zealand-bound packages would not be suspended, but Christchurch would not be on itineraries. Some tourists, however, decided to cancel their trips.


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