Family's agony over missing Briton
Friday 25 February 2011
The family of a British woman missing after the New Zealand earthquake spoke today of their agonising wait to learn whether she was among the dead.
Susan Selway was in her fourth floor office in the Canterbury Television building, which was struck when tremors tore through the city of Christchurch on South Island earlier this week.
Ms Selway, a clinical psychologist who celebrated her 50th birthday this month, was working in the building temporarily after her previous office was badly damaged in the last earthquake to hit the area.
Her husband, financial adviser Richard Austin, rushed to her workplace after hearing the news and waited all night with his brother David in the hope of seeing her walk out of the building alive.
Meanwhile, her father Malcolm Selway, 72, from Henley-on-Thames in Oxfordshire, had just returned to Britain after a trip to New Zealand but took the first plane back there to look for his daughter.
His wife Linda Selway said: "It's absolutely awful. Her old office building was condemned after the last earthquake but it wasn't hit this time and if she had been there she would have been alright."
Ms Selway had been due to move out of the Canterbury Television building next Tuesday into new premises.
Her stepmother Linda described her as "very gutsy".
"She's beautiful, gorgeous, lovely and very bubbly," she said. "She's the life and soul of the party and is always helping people out. She's the rock of the family."
Mrs Selway, 55, who runs a packaging and storage business, went on: "Susan had a big celebration for her 50th birthday the week before last and my husband went over. He helped her move into the CTV building on a temporary basis.
"He flew back from New Zealand and arrived at the airport to this awful news and went straight back on Wednesday on the next flight. Susan's youngest sister also flew out last night.
"As soon as Susan was known to be missing my husband and David went down there and waited at the site for her to walk out of the building.
"He'll stay in the country until he knows what's happened to her."
Ms Selway was born in New Zealand to British parents but came to the UK as a teenager to study at The Henley College and then the University of Warwick, where she read psychology.
She returned to New Zealand about 16 years ago to work.
Her stepmother added: "You always think things like this don't happen to us, they happen to other people."
The latest figure for the death toll in the quake was 113, with two Britons confirmed to be among the victims.
British chef Gregory Tobin, 25, from Tadcaster, North Yorkshire, had been on an around-the-world trip and was believed to have been working temporarily at a garage in Christchurch when the devastation struck.
The identity of the other British victim, also male. has not yet been confirmed.
Friends left tributes to former Tadcaster Grammar School pupil Mr Tobin on Facebook.
One read: "Such a nice guy and at such a young age." Another read: "Sad times ... I can't believe it."
British High Commission spokesman Chris Harrington said two more British men were believed to be among the missing.
He said: "They got on a certain bus, which was crushed by falling masonry."
Mr Harrington added that an injured Briton, who is in Christchurch Hospital after suffering a fractured skull, broken clavicle and broken ribs, is expected to make a full recovery.
Tributes were paid to Irishman Eoin McKenna, a psychiatric nurse from Monaghan county, who died when his car was crushed by falling debris.
The father-of-two had trained and worked in London and also spent some time in Saudi Arabia.
Fabian Murphy, an old school friend from St Macartan's College in Monaghan, said: "He was as funny as ever. I have known him since we were four years old.
"He was one of the funniest people ever, even in 2009, the night's craic we had was just like old times. We'll really miss him."
Rescuers continued to search for another Irishman who worked in a building that collapsed when the quake struck.
He has been named locally as JJ O'Connor, from Co Kerry, an accountant in the Pyne Gould Guinness (PGG) Building in Christchurch.
Some 228 people are still missing after the 6.3-magnitude quake, and hopes of pulling anyone else out of the rubble alive have diminished.
Officials said the death toll is likely to rise, and New Zealand foreign minister Murray McCully said the government was preparing to give family members from several countries some bad news.
Hundreds of rescuers from across the globe, including a 55-strong search and rescue team drawn from the British emergency fire and rescue services, continue to scour Christchurch's shattered town centre district.
Civil defence minister John Carter said: "We are still hopeful that there still may be people rescued but it's getting less and less likely."
The Foreign Office is working with the local authorities, police and hospitals to get more information about the large number of British people living in the area.
A Foreign Office spokesman said: "We can confirm the death of two British nationals as a result of the earthquake. Next of kin have been informed and we are providing consular assistance."
It is feared it could be a month before all the names of the dead have been released as the severity of injuries means DNA and fingerprints may have to be used to identify them.
Up to 120 bodies are still believed to be inside the Canterbury Television building, which also housed an English language school.
A dedicated hotline - 020 7008 8765 - has been set up for concerned friends and relatives in the UK.
British nationals in New Zealand are advised to call 049 242 898 for advice and assistance.
A 63-strong team of British emergency fire and rescue service workers have landed in the country and set up camp in Christchurch, where they will help look for survivors.
Drawn from fire services in the West Midlands, Grampian, Hampshire, Leicestershire, West Sussex, Cheshire, Essex and South Wales, some of them assisted in the search and rescue mission following the recent Haiti earthquake.
The group was deployed to New Zealand at the request of the country's foreign and defence ministers.
In London, Prince William, Prince Harry, and William's fiancee Kate Middleton will visit the New Zealand High Commission today to sign a book of condolence in memory of those who have died in the earthquake.
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