'It seemed to last about 20 seconds but it felt like a lifetime' - Sunderland dad relives terrifying earthquake shock

Natalie Bell, and Gary and Leo Johnson
Natalie Bell, and Gary and Leo Johnson
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A Sunderland dad has relived the terrifying moment he and his partner and young son were caught up in the Greek earthquake that left two people dead and hundreds injured.

Gary Johnson, partner Natalie Bell and two-year-old son Leo are staying in Kardamena, a popular resort on the island of Kos.

Lauren Duffy, from Merseyside, who is staying at the Atlantis Hotel in Lambi, near Kos Town, took this picture showing a fallen statue after the earthquake. Picture from Press Association

Lauren Duffy, from Merseyside, who is staying at the Atlantis Hotel in Lambi, near Kos Town, took this picture showing a fallen statue after the earthquake. Picture from Press Association

It was around 1.30am local time that the 6.5 magnitude quake struck.

"We were sitting in Bar Street, having a few drinks and socialising with friends when the ground started shaking," said Gary, 32.

"We were sitting opposite a shop that had mannequins and bottles in the window and everything started falling off the shelves. All the bottles were smashing on the floor.

"The guys who ran the bar grabbed everybody and started shouting 'Out, out.'

Damage and flooding are seen on a coastal road following the strong earthquake on the Greek island of Kos (Sander van Deventer via AP)

Damage and flooding are seen on a coastal road following the strong earthquake on the Greek island of Kos (Sander van Deventer via AP)

"They took us all into the middle of the street, away from the buildings. I had hold of my son and I was trying to protect him because they were expecting things to come from the roofs.

"It seemed to last about 20 seconds - but it felt life a lifetime."

Coach driver Gary, from Easington Lane, is a fan of TV disaster documentaries - and his knowledge of earthquakes and their aftermath immediately kicked in.

"When the shaking stopped, my first thought was 'There's going to be a tsunami,' so I ran round the corner to look at the sea.

Picture taken with permission from the Twitter feed of Lauren Duffy, from Merseyside, who is staying at the Atlantis Hotel in Lambi, showing people staying outside near Kos Picture: PRESS ASSOCIATION

Picture taken with permission from the Twitter feed of Lauren Duffy, from Merseyside, who is staying at the Atlantis Hotel in Lambi, showing people staying outside near Kos Picture: PRESS ASSOCIATION

"Normally, if there is going to be a tsunami, the sea gets sucked out, so I ran round the corner to see if the sea had been pulled back because, if it had, we were going to have to head for higher ground.

"My first fear was that it was going to happen and we needed to get away."

While there was no tsunami, there was flooding from an unlikely source.

"About ten minutes after it happened, water came rushing down the street," said Gary.

Damage and flooding are seen on a coastal road following the strong earthquake on the Greek island of Kos (Sander van Deventer via AP)

Damage and flooding are seen on a coastal road following the strong earthquake on the Greek island of Kos (Sander van Deventer via AP)

"There are a load of swimming pools with all the hotels and the water from them came roaring down the road towards the sea.

"It was absolutely terrifying."

Despite their frightening experience, Gary and 22-year-old full-time mum Natalie are determined to stay in Kos and enjoy the rest of their holiday.

"Everyone is fine," he said.

"The bulk of the damage has happened in Kos Town, which is down the other end of the island. I'm sat in a bar now with the local TV on and what has happened is devastating.

"We only got here on Wednesday and we are staying for the full two weeks."

The family only went to Kos because their usual holiday plans fell through.

"We normally go to Tenerife," he said.

"My dad has a place out there, but it was fully booked. I used to live here about 15 years ago and i till have friends here, so that is why we came to Kos."