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Sunday 23 July 2017

Finding quake victim may take months

Majella O'Sullivan and Terry Conlon

THE family of an Irishman missing after the New Zealand earthquake have been told it could be up to two months before his body is positively identified.

Relatives of JJ O'Connor (40), originally from Lisereen, Abbeydorney, Co Kerry, have been praying for a miracle.

Yesterday a senior official in New Zealand said there was no chance of finding more survivors from last week's earthquake in Christchurch and the operation was now in the recovery stage.

Mr O'Connor's uncle Denis O'Connor said he was finding it "hard to imagine" his nephew was still alive.

"They are still searching there but we haven't had any news yet. It's heartbreaking, we're all just sitting by the phone waiting for news," he said.

Mr O'Connor worked as an accountant on the first floor of the five-storey PGG building in Christchurch. He is one of 12 people listed as "missing" from the office block.

"This week they are knocking the building from the top down and we've heard that it could take up to two months to identify the bodies," his uncle said.

The family has been in constant touch with Mr O'Connor's devastated wife, Sarah, who is expecting their second child in May. The couple already has a two-year-old son, Daniel.

They emigrated to New Zealand last September, as Sarah was born there. The couple had met in London, where Mr O'Connor lived for a number of years. They were due to return to Ireland in July for a family wedding.

With the earthquake death toll now at 161 and expected to rise to 220, it has emerged that a golf official from Co Louth was among the lucky ones.

Yvonne Cassidy, director with the European Ladies' Professional golf tour, was on her plane just 30 minutes before the earthquake struck on Tuesday, February 22.

The players and nine officials had left town after the tournament was finished, mostly flying out on February 21.

Ms Cassidy stayed an extra day but her plane took off just before the tremor began.

Some locals helping with the tournament had been missing but were later found safe.

Irish Independent

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