Family cling to hope after New Zealand earthquake

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THE sister of a man who has been missing since the New Zealand earthquake last week says her family has not given up hope that he may still be found alive.

Phil Coppeard, 41, moved to Christchurch in New Zealand in November. He was on a bus on his way to university where he was studying for a masters degree in economics, when the earthquake struck last Tuesday.

His wife Suzanne has been carrying out TV appeals and contacting hospitals in an effort to find her husband.

Back in England, his sister Jo Morley and parents Barry and Barbara Coppeard, who live in Bury St Edmunds, have faced an anxious wait by the phone.

“It is groundhog day. You get up and you wait for the phone to ring but hope it doesn’t at the same time,” said Jo, 44.

Despite news reports that Phil is missing feared dead, the family are clinging on to hope, that with a large number of casualties, many of whom have not been identified, taken to hospitals dotted all around New Zealand, he may still turn up alive.

“We know that some people were pulled off the bus alive, it is just trying to find out if Phil was among them.

“There are so many people that haven’t been identified in hospital treatment centres. Until we have something concrete we just think that he must be somewhere waiting to be identified,” said Barbara.

“We can’t give up hope,” said Jo.

Phil had phoned his parents only about an hour before he caught the bus for what was only his second day of lectures.

“He was just telling us about all that had happened because his house had been damaged before by an earthquake and he had had work done and new furniture.

“He was just on top of the world,” said Barbara.

Phil had also told his parents how he and Suzanne had just joined Civil Defence so he could help out in case of an emergency, such as an earthquake.

The Ipswich Town fan had worked as a chartered accountant in London and Manchester and met his New Zealander wife through his job. The couple, who have no children, lived in Dubai for a while before quitting ‘the rat race’ to move to New Zealand in November.

Since the earthquake the family have registered him as missing with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

“They have been an incredible help,” said Barbara.

In the meantime, they said Suzanne had been trying the hospitals to see if she could identify her husband but had not been allowed on to the wards.

A two-minute silence was held in New Zealand on Tuesday to mark the one week anniversary of the earthquake.

At least 161 people are known to have died although with many still missing, authorities say they expect the death toll to rise to about 240.

Officials declared the rescue effort as over yesterday as hopes evaporated of finding anyone alive amid the rubble.

A British taskforce was sent out this week to assist with identifying the dead. New Zealand police have also warned that some of the bodies may never be found.