THE world’s best fly-half Dan Carter has talked emotionally about how he had to flee for his safety during the earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand.
He was forced to leave his damaged home and had to comfort his grief stricken fiancée whose friend died in the disaster and he helped the rescue operation.
Carter, who plays for the Crusaders in Sunday’s Super 15 game at Twickenham against Sharks, recalled: “I was going to take a shower when, suddenly, there was violent shaking and we just had to get out there as fast as we could.
“You don’t have time to think but as we tried to get out of the grandstand, it was being shaken from wall to wall, throwing us from side to side and our hands and elbows got grazed.
“Outside, we realised it had been a bad one and that we had to get home quick but it was only when I jumped into the car that I realised the extent of the devastation. It’s something I’ll never forget; the shock on people’s faces, all the traffic lights out, water gushing out in the streets, cracks in the road, traffic jams. It was a pretty scary time.
“A normal five minute ride to my house in the eastern suburbs took 45 minutes. By the time I got there, there were people coming out of their houses crying and neighbours returning home shocked. There was liquefaction, silt all over the roads, fire sirens going off everywhere, it was just like a bomb site.
“Most of the damage to my house was on the outside. Inside, pretty much everything had fallen down. Everything smashed in the pantry, wines bottles smashed, paintings had come off the wall and cracks in the walls. The water was out.”
Carter went to his parents’ home in Southbridge, 30 miles south of Christchurch on the Canterbury Plains where he grew up.
He added: “I flicked on TV there and saw the devastating damage. Unbelievable. Then I realised we were the lucky ones.”
The disaster, four weeks ago, killed more than 180 people and injured over 2000. Carter only moved back into his house last week when the water supply was restored and shortly before he flew to London for Sunday’s match.
“It’s a bit of damage but I can still live there. I feel fortunate, in that my friends and family have come through it all pretty unscathed so it’s nothing compared to what a lot of other people here are going through; the loss of loved ones, houses and properties completely destroyed. There’s a lot in a much worse position than me.
“So many stories everyone seems to know someone who was affected,” Carter said. “One of the Crusaders’ board members, Philip McDonald, who everyone knew and liked died. It’s been pretty tough.”
Carter has also been comforting his fiancée, Honor Dillon, the former New Zealand ‘Black Sticks’ hockey star. “She was pretty cut up because she had hockey friends who had been stuck in one of the main buildings when it collapsed in town. Really sad. So I shot up to Auckland, where she lives, to spend some time with her.” Dillon’s former team-mate, Amanda Hooper, died, aged just 30.
Carter admitted he felt a responsibility as his nation’s most popular sportsman to do something, anything, to help. “But I wasn’t sure how; I felt a bit powerless. The day after the earthquake in our neighbourhood which was pretty badly affected, we went out with wheelbarrows and shovels, clearing up all the liquefaction and silt all around, and delivering water to those in most need.
“As All Blacks, we are kind of held on a pedestal here in a nation of rugby fanatics. So you’ve got to make sure people know that you’re just like everybody else, you’re just human, going through the same emotional roller-coaster. Just because you’re an All Black doesn’t mean you’re not going to get your hands dirty to help out when needed.
“Actually, it was really rewarding. I didn’t know my neighbours that well, now I do because we’ve been working so closely together on a big clean up.If there can be any positive to come out of such a disaster, it’s the real fantastic sense of community which has built up here.”
Of Sunday’s game against South African Durban-based Sharks he added:”It is a hell of a long way to go for one game.But if it can raise funds for the earthquake appeal, then it’s a great idea.”
Tickets for Investec Super Rugby Crusaders v Sharks at Twickenham on March 27 (4pm) can be purchased online via rfu.com/tickets or by telephone 0844 847 2492. £5 from each ticket sold will go to the Red Cross Earthquake Appeal.