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Sunday, March 20, 2011

Facts fly out window amid rumour flurry

Facts fly out window amid rumour flurry

Last updated 10:48 20/03/2011
Christchurch residents are having to become adept at separating fact from fiction as last month's devastating quake gives rise to a slew of new urban myths.

Among the myths circulating in Christchurch since the quake is that popular TV cook and cafe owner Jo Seagar was in the CTV building when it collapsed.

The rumour was so widespread that Seagar's publisher Random House took the unusual step of issuing a statement assuring people that Seagar was very much alive.

"Jo says she and all her loved ones are all fine and well. They're pretty shocked and there's been lots of tears but now they're working hard to help out," the statement said.

Endurance athlete and motivational speaker Steve Gurney is another who has had to endure rumours of his passing. His home was destroyed in the quake but Gurney was not injured.

However, that's not stopped rumours from flying that he is one of the as yet unnamed victims.

Other fictitious stories doing the rounds include one about a person who was pulled alive from the Pyne Gould Corporation building only to be injured later in a hit- and-run accident. Others have Prime Minister John Key offering to personally finance the rebuilding of Canterbury University's damaged library building and Lyttelton's extinct volcano coming back to life and causing the water in the harbour to boil.

Canterbury University sociologist Michael Grimshaw says such urban myths circulate as a type of counter-narrative to official statements and reports.

"In the wake of a major event they signal the disorientation that occurs . . . they spring up as claims of counter-authority and act to add excitement, fear, hope, etc, in times when we are often told to keep calm, ordered, rational," said Grimshaw.

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