I was working as a Store Manager at Eastgate Mall, in a alternate gift ware store (I had been employed in this role for the past 8 years and ironically it was my anniversary that week of employment).
My staff had joined me at 12pm and we had spent considerable time serving an elderly customer I was just about to leave for lunch when the violent shaking began…almost instantly I grabbed my staff member and we held each other tight, I remember starting to shake uncontrollably with fear but had to get everyone out as I was the manager.
I saw the glass shelves fly with all the stock and then the lights went out followed by loud crashing noises and I felt an excruciating pain all down my left leg losing all balance, my staff tried to hold me up but I said help the others get out at that point I went nauseous and thought I was going to die, it was a split second thing.
We both crawled over broken stock and rubble (I had to drag my leg as there was no feeling apart from pain and it was wet…from bleeding) we crawled to were the elderly customer was and tried to pull her up, her face was covered in blood and she was whimpering. I could see a couple (man and woman) who were also in the shop trying to get up while groaning in pain…I was at this point shaking violently and couldn’t move. I was panicking as another woman was at the side of the door that wasn’t moving and I screamed for help…she started to rouse and blood was streaming down her face to and she began to sob.
A security guard got through the damaged entrance to the shop and started to help out the other customers who were also screaming and crying. I couldn’t stand without help, so my staff and the guard were on either side of me. We had to climb over all the broken stock but wouldn’t leave until we were the last out… but I was also I was terrified to move as all the shop structure had collapsed (learnt later that it was the weight of the car park and caved into the mall).
It was an eerie sight as we finally got out of the shop into the mall…people who I knew running past screaming with blood covered faces and bodies or covered in dust, there were parts of the sky light swinging and liquefaction and sewage already seeping through the interior on the floor.
I had never seen it before and at first it totally freaked me out as it was traveling quickly but as we reached the main entrance I saw the big pillars of the car park swaying and screamed to get out faster…but the sight I saw in the car park will be forever etched in my mind, it was like in a war movie.
Because I had worked in the Mall for a long time I knew most if not all the staff from all the businesses that worked at Eastgate and to see them all in such states of distress was horrific in itself, there were some lying on the ground in state of shock, shaking violently, two were having epileptic fits, many had blood on their faces (that’s why I am amazed at the media report that only 6 people were injured at Eastgate Mall) some were vomiting…a young mother cradling her baby rocking with blood on her face.
The last paragraph was seen by me in a flash and at the time what with the pain in my leg and in a state of shock myself, I started to go dizzy and nauseous and past out falling to the ground…I could hear people saying “wake up ” my staff member had gone out of my sight and as I came to… I screamed for her.and I was lifted to me feet again, the head of security came to me and hugged me and then started to sob…we both did, I looked around and saw my husband running towards me, just as the second (or third) after shock hit…the car park started to sway again and everyone was screaming, many fell to the ground including myself and staff, my husband got us to the car.
We shouted to the crowd if anyone wanted a lift but everyone seemed transfixed so we made our way out of the car park…hated having to leave customers and Mall staff as we drove past all in shock but knew we all had to get out and I needed my leg and now my shoulder, head and back from collapsing, seeing to.
The roads were literally erupting before us with burst water and sewage mains spewing deluge all over the roads…the traffic was just unbelievable, we came through an intersection bumper to bumper when suddenly we were hit by another car going at ridiculous speed at such a time, the impact spun our car 180 hitting the right side passengers door… again I thought we were going to die as I saw vividly the look of sheer terror as our car almost plunged into an oncoming lane of traffic (mothers getting their kids from school) it was just awful.
My husband managed to control the car…only one man and his daughters stopped to help as everyone was in their own state of panic to get home or to loved ones.
We eventually arrived home and again the destruction there was too much, I lost that day the use of my leg and foot, my job, our house, our car and a lifestyle we enjoyed… but know we are lucky to have survived and our heartfelt thoughts go to family and friends of those that didn’t