A Northern Ireland woman who escaped from the collapsed Christchurch cathedral has spoken of how she thought she would die.

Lynda Patterson had been working in the landmark building when it collapsed after the earthquake struck.

About 20 people were killed when the spire of the iconic Christchurch cathedral toppled on Tuesday, collapsing into the city square.

Lynda, who was originally from Dromore in Co Down, was the cathedral’s theologian-in-residence after she moved to New Zealand six years ago.

Lynda told the Belfast Telegraph: “I was fairly sure that I was going to die,” she said.

“So, in one sense, I feel hugely lucky to be alive.

“But it’s hard to talk about luck in a city full of people whose mum or dad or husband or wife or child still hasn’t come home from work.

“Without any warning the building started to shake |violently, like somebody was pulling a carpet out from underneath it,” she said.

“From where I was, I could see two other staff in a doorway of an office holding on to each other as desks and bookcases and chairs came tumbling around them.

“It sounded like a sort of echoing rumble all around.

“When the building stopped shaking, we made for the back door, checking that all the staff were accounted for.”

Lynda described the scenes in the aftermath of the earthquake as “apocalyptic”.

“Looking up and down the main street, we could see buildings down and vehicles crushed.

“To the south of us we saw people clambering over wreckage to try and get people out of cars as more buildings fell around them.

“The soundtrack was fire alarms and people screaming.

“There was a man with a broken leg lying on the ground beside me, and dozens of people around looking dazed and |covered in blood.”

The collapsed cathedral provided a powerful image of the disaster, but Lynda fears many people are buried in its ruins.

“I am haunted by the thought that we didn’t get everybody out,” she added.

“The cathedral was one of the biggest tourist attractions in New Zealand, with about 700,000 visitors a year.

“The civil defence people are estimating more than 20 people could be under the rubble, and the building has so far been too unstable to send search and |rescue teams into. Seeing the tower fall, and knowing that there were still people up there, will haunt me till the day I die.”