The magnitude 6.3 earthquake that rocked Christchurch, New Zealand, on Tuesday was a disaster whose effects stretched all the way to Lawrence.
Terry Ebeling grew up in Lawrence, and he graduated from Lawrence High School in 1974 and from Kansas University in 1982. Today, he lives in Dunedin, a city about a four-and-a-half-hour drive from Christchurch on New Zealand’s South Island.
“It’s kind of similar to when Katrina hit (the U.S.),” Ebeling said. “The rest of the country is in a bit of shock and is kind of powerless.”
His wife has family members who live in Christchurch, and they have heard word that all of them are safe, he said, though their home has been destroyed. Terry’s brother Tim Ebeling also lives in New Zealand, on the North Island, away from the quake’s devastation.
“We still don’t know the extent of the damage,” he said.
Media reports listed the death toll from the quake at over 100 people so far, with more than 200 still missing. Ebeling said he guessed that the death toll eventually would rise above 200 people.
A KU Study Abroad program is scheduled to visit Christchurch this summer. No decisions have been made on whether to cancel the program, said Robert Lopez, outreach coordinator for KU’s Office of Study Abroad.
“It’s too early to tell,” he said. KU officials have been in contact with officials at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, which is currently shut down.
If the university doesn’t reopen by the time the program is to begin in early July, the program would have to be canceled and alternate arrangements would be made.
Lopez said he didn’t anticipate that the university would be closed that long.
The program is a small one for KU and typically attracts fewer than 10 students, he said.
Shanxi Omoniyi is a Lawrence resident who was born in Auckland, New Zealand, and still has family in the area, including relatives in Christchurch. She moved to the United States in 1998.
She heard her family in Christchurch was safe through Facebook, from another relative living in Singapore, and was glad to be able to use social networking to get fast information.
Seeing the photos from the region and hearing the news reports is a very emotional experience, said Omoniyi, who formerly worked as a copy editor for the Journal-World.
“It feels almost like New Zealand’s Haiti quake,” she said.