An Abu Dhabi resident visiting family in New Zealand experienced first-hand one of the country's worst natural disasters yesterday when a 6.3 magnitude earthquake struck her home town.
Jo Lynch was at home having lunch when the second major earthquake in five months hit the South Island city of Christchurch. Officials confirmed that at least 65 people had died in the earthquake.
"The whole house was rocking, moving in all directions and the noise was maddening," said Ms Lynch, who left the UAE in November to go home for a holiday. "I don't really remember getting myself outside the house into the garden, and once it calmed down, I looked inside to see shattered glasses and pictures on the floor."
Ms Lynch said the power was out across the city, which has a population of 350,000, making phone and internet communications difficult. In the early hours of this morning, Ms Lynch said the aftershocks were "still scary", with as many as three smaller earthquakes shaking her house in a 15-minute period.
"I remember just being out of breath and not believing what had happened," Ms Lynch said. "We have no power, so we are staying not far from home with friends, mattresses on the floor, door open so we can escape outside if we need."
Lisa Riddington, a New Zealander who lives in Dubai, said her aunt's house collapsed and was "reduced to rubble" in Christchurch.
"It was a real shock," said Ms Riddington, who works for an engineering and construction consultancy company. "They're still experiencing constant tremors, and everyone is really shook up over there."
Ms Riddington said her family in New Zealand was still trying to track down her cousin, who is pregnant.
"We're just waiting to hear if she's OK," Ms Riddington said. "The reality of this will take a few days to sink in, and it's especially hard for those of us who are away from home."
In the UAE, New Zealanders have started posting suggestions on Facebook for ways to help "whanau" - or family - back home.
"We're all in shock ... but when the dust settles, I'm sure we'll get our usual, pragmatic Kiwi heads together and do something," said Sheryl Rogers, who lives in Abu Dhabi.
The UAE ambassador to Australia, Ali Nasser al Nuaimi, said the embassy had set up an operations room in co-ordination with the cultural attache, according to WAM, the state news agency.
The embassy has also sent e-mails to all students in New Zealand with emergency hotline information. The Dubai Government Media Office also reported that Mr al Nuaimi confirmed that UAE students in New Zealand were safe and had not been affected by the earthquake.
The UAE has not yet deployed aid, but a disaster response team was standing by. "We are fully alert, but they are not asking for assistance," said Lt Col Mohammed al Ansari, head of the UAE's urban search and rescue team. "We are in close contact with New Zealand and the United Nations, but as far as we know, the situation is that there is a lot of damage, but it is under control."
The New Zealand Consulate in Dubai said concerned residents were urged to contact the diplomatic mission in Riyadh, which oversees the UAE, with questions.