Keyport woman returns home from quake-stricken area today

Julianne Haag, the Keyport woman who was in Christchurch, N.Z., when the 6.3 earthquake struck Monday, returns to Seattle today.

Haag, 20, had completed a five-month stint working for a food services contractor at McMurdo Station, Antarctica, and was in Christchurch on her way home when the quake struck. As of Friday, the death toll had climbed to 113 with 228 people missing.     

Haag reported on her Facebook page that she left Christchurch on Thursday on an Air Force plane to Auckland. She expected to arrive in Seattle at 3:10 p.m. today.

Haag was resting in her Christchurch hotel room when the earthquake struck. She stood under a door jamb for safety and watched as her bed and desk seemingly floated across the room.

By the time the earth stopped shaking, people were trapped in buildings, power and telephone service were out, pipes burst and streets flooded, and the spire of the 130-year-old Christchurch Cathedral — a historic landmark and a National Treasure of New Zealand — was toppled. Prime Minister John Key was quoted in news reports as saying Feb. 21 "may well be New Zealand's darkest day."

Four hours passed before Haag, daughter of Jeff and Kathleen Haag of Keyport, was able to let people know through her Facebook page that she was OK. “As of this moment, I am at the Clothing Distribution Center of the Antarctic Center at the Christchurch Airport,” she wrote in a Facebook message the day after the quake. “Many of the Antarctic people gathered here to stay the night, though I heard one of my friends built a shelter in the park to stay at.”

Haag is a 2008 graduate of North Kitsap High School and a 2010 graduate of Cottey College, a junior college in Nevada, Mo. She took time off to work in Antarctica for the adventure and to save money for college, her father said.

The earthquake struck while a U.S. delegation of 43 business, community and government leaders was in Christchurch for a US-New Zealand Partnership Forum, to promote trade; the U.S. Embassy in New Zealand said in a statement that all were safe. Among those in the delegation: Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Everett. He wrote on his Facebook page that he went to a Wellington church and shared a prayer for the people of Christchurch.

Nations have sent disaster relief and search-and-rescue teams to the stricken area.

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