Several hours after the 6.3-magnitude earthquake struck earlier this week, Steve Jackson was finally able to reach family members in New Zealand.
A Forsyth County resident, Jackson was relieved to learn they were safe.
“The telecommunications weren’t working and there was a tremendous difficulty just getting through to people there,” he said. “I was just hoping that everything was all right.”
A New Zealand native, Jackson lived in the country for 30 years before eventually making his way to Forsyth, where he owns and operates Backyard Burgers on Buford Highway.
But he left behind his mother, father and siblings, most of whom live on the North Island of the southwestern Pacific Ocean country.
“My brother, his wife and my niece live in Christchurch, where the earthquake was,” Jackson said. “They’re alive, which is good news, but their house is pretty much destroyed.”
His brother and his family are living in a nearby shelter while power is being restored to Christchurch, which is on the South Island.
Water remains scarce, Jackson said, but the top priority is searching for those buried in the rubble.
“They [say] the death toll is probably going to be hundreds by the time they’re done,” he said. “They fear there’s hundreds of people still buried.”
The death toll is currently about 100, though hundreds of others are still missing.
“They say [Christchurch] is the second largest city, but there’s only 400,000 people,” Jackson said. “So when you put it into perspective, it’s ... three times the size of Forsyth County.”
Tuesday’s quake wasn’t the first for Jackson’s brother. A tremor last fall shook his dental business.
“The building in which his business was [housed], was condemned, so he was already relocated and I haven’t heard on his business yet,” he said.
Once the dust settles Jackson said his brother may want to consider moving closer to his parents and sister on the North Island.
“I’m sure they’re reasoning what’s going on,” he said. “Their house has got a significant amount of damage to it, his business is impacted, so I’m sure they’re going to have to think it through.
“But right now, they’re just staying in the shelter.”