Study-abroad students caught in 7.8 earthquake

Luke Venhuizen- Staff Writer

When she hopped on a plane to New Zealand, junior Victoria Cast expected to study the environment and God’s Creation for four months. Those expectations were cut short when she got a first-hand experience of environmental dangers.

On Monday, Nov. 14, a 7.8 earthquake struck near the Kaikoura district of New Zealand. It was just after midnight when the earthquake began. It lasted around two minutes with an on-going series of aftershocks that have reached well over a 6-magnitude and are still occurring even today.

Cast and nine other North American students were studying at The Old Convent, a 15-minute bike ride outside of Kaikoura, an oceanfront town.

The Old Convent, originally built in 1911, is a former convent and Catholic school turned into a bed and breakfast. The building houses the New Zealand Creation Cares Study Program.

“We had the mountains in our back yard, and the ocean only a mile away,” Cast continued. “It was a prime location to see God’s Creation.”

“I should have been asleep,” said Cast, reflecting back to the night of the quake. “I was watching a movie and cross-stitching at the same time. I dropped my needle, so I was looking for that. After I found it, I was getting down from my bed to use the bathroom, and as I was on the ladder the earthquake started.”

Cast immediately jumped into the doorway. Her roommates woke and rolled to the doorway as well. “I remember thinking that no one ever told us how long to stay in the door frame,” she said.

Debris was falling everywhere. While one roommate made a run for it, a chunk of the ceiling struck the back of Cast’s head. This caused her to fall to the ground as she covered her head from other falling debris.

“I thought to myself, I’m on the second floor. If my ceiling is falling, the ceiling below me could be falling, which is my floor,” Cast said, “At that point I thought—I needed to get out of here.”

Cast and her other roommate made a run for it.

“There was glass all over the stairs from fallen pictures,” Cast recalled. “My roommate Taylor stopped on the stairs because she didn’t want to get glass in her feet, but I just went for it because I just wanted to get out of there. I went back to get her and told her we would worry about the glass later.”

Cast and her roommate made it out of the building. That was when Cast felt faint from her head injury and needed help joining rest of the group. They got into a van and headed up the mountain due to tsunami warnings.

“There were basically three injuries. My head; my roommate cut her foot and needed stitches; and Joey, who got glass in his feet,” said Cast.

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