‘It’s just awful’: Principal’s home burgled while helping students evacuate during tsunami alert

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An Ōpōtiki teacher said their principal had her home burgled while they were out helping all their students evacuate during the tsunami alerts.

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About 150 children at St Joseph’s Catholic School had to be re-located yesterday morning.

The school is less than a kilometre away from the shoreline, and also surrounded on three sides by rivers.

Val Hata, a teacher at the school, said they got the warning of the 8.1 magnitude earthquake and the tsunami risk, just as people were arriving at school.

“Very quickly, teachers just gathered together, and made the decision to evacuate,” she said.

“We phoned the buses, gathered the children, and within 10 to 15 minutes, the children were on the buses, and heading out of town to our designated evacuation place.”

During their time sheltering out of harm’s way, Hata said children were comfortable, safe and well-fed by Ōpōtiki College, who delivered food straight to them.

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On their way back into town after the all-clear was given, Hata said their principal, Raewyn Clark, popped by her house.

“The principal just dropped into her house on the way back to school, and found that people had broken in, and made a terrible mess, and stolen things.

“We’re pretty gutted – she’s a very community-minded principal, does a lot of good in this community, and to be treated like that, it’s just horrendous.

“But she won’t be the only one, and that’s the terrible thing – in a time like that, that people would be so cruel.”

Hata said she has gone to the police and is assessing the situation at home.

“She’s lost stuff, and stuff’s been stolen, and her house has been trashed. It’s just awful.”

A 28-year-old has been charged over the break-in.

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