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Several Wellington CBD buildings deemed unsafe

Radio New Zealand Radio New Zealand 16/11/2016
An empty building at 61 Molesworth Street in Wellington might need to be "deconstructed" after structural damage was found, the city's mayor says. © RNZ / Mei Heron An empty building at 61 Molesworth Street in Wellington might need to be "deconstructed" after structural damage was found, the city's mayor says.

Several buildings in Wellington's CBD have been deemed unsafe following Monday's destructive 7.5 magnitude earthquake, and some apartments have been evacuated.

Wellington Mayor Justin Lester said although engineers were still assessing a 10-storey building on Molesworth Street, it was likely it would need to be "deconstructed".

The building - at 61 Molesworth Street - was cordoned off yesterday after engineers doing post-quake checks discovered a major structural beam had fractured "like a bone".

There was no risk to the public outside the building but it would be dangerous for anyone inside it, Mr Lester said.

Civil Defence said this morning there had been no further quakes that had threatened the structure of the building, but the cordons could stay in place for days, or even months.

The residents of Tennyson Apartments, meanwhile, were evacuated this afternoon.

Emergency services outside Tennyson Apartments on Tennyson Street, Wellington. The apartments have been evacuated because of structural damage. © RNZ / Aaron Smale Emergency services outside Tennyson Apartments on Tennyson Street, Wellington. The apartments have been evacuated because of structural damage.

Fire Service spokesperson Michael Wanoa said engineers had deemed the building unsafe, and called the service at 11.30am for help getting people out of the building.

He said Urban Search and Rescue workers were at the building, on Tennyson Street, and it was not known at this stage how many people were affected.

Mathew Lee, who works in an office building next to Tennyson Apartments, said about three quarters of the street had been cordoned off.

Other nearby buildings had also been evacuated, including an early childhood education centre.

Forty apartments at Malvina Major Retirement Villlage in the Wellington suburb of Khandallah were also evacuated, after engineers found potential quake-related damage.

Ryman Healthcare operates the village, and its managing director, Simon Challies, said the residents in its Figaro building were evacuated as a precaution.

Most of them had been relocated to Ryman's Bob Scott Village in Petone, or were staying with family, he said.

A full assessment was likely to take two weeks.

Wellington did 'extremely well' given size of quake

Wellington City Council Manager Building Compliance and Consent Mike Scott said the city had held up "extremely well" given the size of Monday's earthquake.

He said there had been a "perfect storm" in the city in the past 56 hours with the earthquake, rain, high winds and a king tide.

Mr Lester said the council would help provide beds for those who needed it with friends and family and in student accommodation.

It was possible there would need to be more building closures as the engineers completed their rounds of the city, he said.

Defence House on Aitken Street, Wellington © Creative Commons Defence House on Aitken Street, Wellington

The Defence Force HQ in the city has also been deemed uninhabitable following Monday's quake.

The multistorey office building at 2 Aitken Street was opened in 2007, and documentation shows it was built to "high seismic and security standards".

RNZ understands its 1200 staff have been told they will not be able to return for a year because of damage.

The Defence Force's office on Thorndon Quay is also closed due to yesterday's flooding, and all Wellington defence staff are working from home until further notice.

The Defence Force has been contacted for comment.

Pipitea Street closed over falling debris fears

A nearby street in Wellington has also been closed because of concerns debris may fall off a building.

Civil Defence has cordoned off Pipitea Street in the central city, as it was worried about the facade of Pipitea House - the offices of the Security Intelligence Service.

Civil Defence said people who usually walked through the affected areas should look out for guides who would point them to an alternative route.

Police will be stationed on the corner of Mulgrave and Aitken Streets to direct traffic.

People working at nearby buildings - including New Zealand Rugby House, St Paul's Cathedral and the Thai Embassy - were hurriedly told to evacuate yesterday, and it was unlikely they would be allowed back in today.

Some houses accessed off Collina Terrace have also been evacuated.

Queensgate Mall in Lower Hutt closed

One of Wellington's regional shopping malls will be shut until at least the end of the week as a result of the earthquakes.

The Queensgate Mall in Lower Hutt, which has three floors and 182 shops, was closed yesterday and is cordoned off to the public.

Security guards are telling members of the public it will be shut until at least the end of the week.

Structural engineers are at present assessing the site.

There is no comment from management so far.


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