Strong winds, dust add to quake woes

5:44 am on 3 March 2011

Strong winds buffeting Christchurch are making conditions facing emergency workers and residents in quake-hit parts of the city extremely difficult.

The winds, gusting to 90km/h on Wedensday, stirred up dust in some parts of the city, and it was common to see people wearing face masks.

Superintendent Dave Cliff said weather conditions were hazardous, with dust, debris and in some cases corrugated iron blowing around the central city.

The winds are understood to have disrupted search and rescue teams at several central city sites and dust was billowing over parts of the city. The wind was forecast to ease overnight.

Residents to get face masks

Civil Defence is to distribute face masks to the people of Christchurch.

Last week's earthquake brought an estimated 200,000 tonnes of silt to the surface, more than half of which has been cleared away.

However, the strengthening north-westerly winds have been drying the silt and kicking up clouds of dust.

Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker is urging residents to wear face masks, which he says the Student Volunteer Army will help distribute.

Although he says the dust is not thought to be contaminated, he advises anyone with a respiratory condition to wear a mask.

Contracting company Fulton Hogan has collected the majority of the 120,000 tonnes so far removed, clearing 214 streets.

Chief executive Bill Perry said as of Wednesday the company had removed 98,000 tonnes of the silt.

The company has 420 trucks and 1000 workers out collecting the silt.

Mr Perry says the strong winds have made Wednesday's work even tougher, with fine particles of dust flying around, and rubberneckers aren't helping matters either.

About 600 farmers were on the streets of Christchurch on Wednesday, helping clear away more of the silt.

Federated Farmers spokesperson John Hartnell says the so-called Farmy Army is working to clean up schools in the Shirley area.

The army of student volunteers is also helping in the suburbs.

The silt is being taken to Burwood landfill.

Timeball Station withstands wind

The Fire Service on Wednesday had feared strong winds may bring down the historic Timeball Station in Lyttleton, but the historic building survived.

Lyttleton's chief fire officer Mark Buckley says he was called to the building by people working on site who believe the station has moved since the earthquake.

He says the station appeared to be very unsound and vulnerable to strong winds.

Only one home is believed to be in its path and the road below it is already closed because of the earthquake.