International Law

NY Law Firm Co-Founder and 4 Fla. Law Students Among Those Who Survived NZ Quake

Updated: As rescue operations continued in New Zealand today to try to extricate dozens of people apparently still trapped in collapsed buildings in the central business district of Christchurch, at least seven members of the United States legal community are known to be among the survivors.

Today it was reported that a former municipal judge who co-founded a New York law firm and four law students from the University of Florida were among the survivors. Yesterday, a New Hampshire lawyer and a partner at McGuireWoods made the news for the same reason.

CBS News reports that retired partner Bruce Martin of Martin Harding & Mazzotti e-mailed to say that he and a friend are “bruised but not broken” in Christchurch.

The law students were not in their housing there when the quake struck, and may have destroyed both the building and their belongings, recounts the Gainesvill Sun’s Chalkboard blog.

Meanwhile, a local lawyer says both he and his wife were lucky to survive.

Partner David Beck of SB Law ordinarily would have been at work on Monday when the quake struck around lunchtime. But he had made an unusual decision to work remotely and was in a cafe taking a coffee break, reports the Chronicle.

In the midst of what had seemed like an ordinary day, chaos struck. Plates went flying, the coffee machine spun off the counter and a shelf hit Beck, 52, in the back of his head.

“You are told to crouch down and try to get under the tables but we all thought the building might collapse, so we ran outside,” he tells the British newspaper. Outside, “the whole road was moving. It was so frightening. The front of the coffee shop fell down, and another building across the road also collapsed.”

Calling his office, he was relieved to hear that everyone there was alive, too. The building was structurally damaged, but other nearby offices were destroyed.

His wife also was fortunate: Scheduled for surgery, she was already under a general anesthetic. However, no incision had yet been made, he says, calling her lucky not to have been “in a very dangerous position.”

Although New Zealand already has some of the toughest building code requirements in the world concerning earthquake-resistance, more stringent measures may be adopted in the future, predicts an ABC News article.

Strict requirements applied to buildings constructed in recent years helped keep the number of deaths and injuries from the devastating quake relatively low, reports the This Just In blog of CNN.

Last updated at 8:30 p.m. to include information about Martin.

Additional coverage: “2 US Lawyers OK After Quake; 35 Escape N.Z. Firm Where Stairs ‘Dropped Down the Stairwells’”

BBC News: “New Zealand quake: Workers embark on delicate rescue”

Sydney Morning Herald: “Family’s vigil ends in tears of despair “

The Age: “Joy as lucky few are delivered from rubble “

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