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Quake couple count their blessings

PUBLISHED: 14:50 20 March 2010 | UPDATED: 17:08 30 June 2010

IT struck at 3am, destroying cities, tearing buildings apart and leaving nearly 800 people dead

and another two million homeless.

The fifth biggest earthquakein the last 100 years, its effects have dealt a huge blow that will be felt by many for years to come.

IT struck at 3am, destroying cities, tearing buildings apart and leaving nearly 800 people dead

and another two million homeless.

The fifth biggest earthquakein the last 100 years, its effects have dealt a huge blow that will be felt by many for years to come.

But almost directly above the spot where the plates of the earth clashed off the coast of Chile, Ken and Doreen Overy, of Elm Avenue, Gorleston, slept soundly in their cabin.

It was five hours later when the grandparents-of-six, on board cruise ship Blackwatch, heard the captain's announcement regarding the tragic events earlier that morning of February 27.

Ken, 74, said: “He would make announcements a few times a day at set times about the weather and our location, but it never really meant much to me.

“This one was different. It was outside his normal set times and we knew nothing about what had gone on below us when he told us about the earthquake.

“Normally he would end his announcements by saying 'buckle up and enjoy the ride' - but not this time.”

The cruise-loving couple and more than 1,000 people on board, had escaped a natural disaster that measured 8.8 on the Richter scale unharmed because of their ship's position in deep water, despite being above the epicentre.

But they knew that many of the sites they had seen, and many of the people they had met, had not been so fortunate.

Switching on their TV after the announcement, they witnessed the terrible impact on the world heritage city of Valparaiso, whose streets they had strolled down just days before.

Mr Overy said: “That was one of the worst hit places, and when we turned the telly on we saw just how devastated it was.”

Recently retired Doreen sat alongside her husband and took it all in. She said: “When I heard about it I don't know how I felt, but it's terrible what happened, and what happened to Robinson Crusoe Island.”

So named because it had been the inspiration for the setting of Daniel Defoe's book, the island had just been visited by the ship, and Doreen had bought a fish skin wallet from one of the stalls there.

She said: “Though it was a little community, it was lovely and had really tried to build itself up and make the most out of its opportunities, but they were hit by a tsunami caused by the earthquake.”

In the knowledge that all that had been left of the buildings on the island were the church and post office, and with her phone vibrating with texts from concerned friends and family, Doreen was left with one thought:

“All I can say is how lucky I consider myself and my husband, and how sorry I am for the people who had to go through it on the mainland.”

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