5 Mar 2014

Big storm another blow for quake-hit residents

10:12 pm on 5 March 2014

Christchurch's mayor says Tuesday's massive storm has been another disaster for people struggling with the aftermath of recent damaging earthquakes.

The storm exceeded forecasts in its intensity and has been upgraded to a 1-in-100-year event, Lianne Dalziel says. The mayor and Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee met with shocked and scared residents while out observing the damage on Wednesday.

Christchurch City Council land drainage operations manager Mike Gillooly told Radio New Zealand that rainfall over the 24-hour period had been the most intense since 1975.

The big Canterbury storm caused millions of dollars of damage.

The big Canterbury storm caused millions of dollars of damage. Photo: RNZ

Flood waters were dropping on Wednesday night, but residents face a massive clean-up. More than 100 properties have been flooded, mainly in the worst-hit suburbs of Mairehau, St Albans and Richmond. Many roads have been closed, communications cut and thousands of people are likely to be without power for a second night in Christchurch and Banks Peninsula.

In Lyttelton, 19 homes have been evacuated following a landslip above a fuel storage area at the port in the afternoon. It was unlikely residents would be allowed back home for the night.

Ms Dalziel said a state of emergency isn't likely to be declared, but flood waters are contaminated and people should stay home if possible. She said she would deal with the recurring problem of houses flooding in storms at a meeting on Thursday.

A Christchurch community leader says the severe weather is starting to take a heavy toll on some. Burwood Pegasus Community Board chairperson Andrea Cummings said those affected included people in already badly damaged quake suburbs.

A flooded home in Sheldon Street, Woolston.

A flooded home in Sheldon Street, Woolston. Photo: RNZ

"They're the ones that were already doing it hard, they're the ones that were already emotionally at breaking point. My neighbour two doors down, her house is so twisted that none of her windows seal. So she was up every hour in the night changing towels and putting towels through the dryer to try and keep here children's bedrooms dry."

While checking river levels for Civil Defence on Tuesday night, Ms Cummings waded in waist-deep water to rescue an elderly woman who had no idea how severe the flooding around her east suburbs house was.

Jo Byrne was also forced to evacuate her Carrick Street home and said it wasn't the first time it had been inundated with water. She told Radio New Zealand's Checkpoint programme on Wednesday she's had to get out of her property in the suburb of Mairehau a number of times.

"I can't take my children back to that house - they're scared every time it rains. Every other kid in Christchurch is just scared of earthquakes and mine are scared of rain. This is the twelfth or fourteenth time our street has been flooded, it's the second time it's been through our house, the fourth time we've evacuated."

Ms Byrne said the February 2011 quake had a significant impact on the ground in her street, which dropped by 50 centimetres, and the infrastructure can't cope. She said it never flooded before the quakes.

The Christchurch City Council advised that people should stay at home if they could, not use the roads unless necessary, and get in touch with others for support and offer assistance to family, friends and neighbours.

The MetService says the weather in Christchurch should improve over the next few days. Meteorologist John Laws said up to 170mm of rain has fallen in parts of the city during the storm.

A makeshift barrier to protect houses in Lyttelton.

A makeshift barrier to protect houses in Lyttelton. Photo: RNZ

Evacuations in Lyttelton

Nineteen homes were evacuated from three streets in Lyttelton on Wednesday afternoon after a land slip above a fuel storage area at the port. Homes in parts of Cressy Terrace, Park Terrace and Brittan Terrace were evacuated and cordons have been put in place.

A police spokesperson said the action was precautionary and in response to the possibility of further slips in the area. The slip occurred below Brittan Terrace, with a cliff face collapsing into a bulk storage tank.

The spokesperson said the Fire Service, port authorities and fuel companies were managing the containment of fuel from the damaged tank and were confident there was no danger to residents in the area.

It was unlikely evacuated residents would be able to return to their homes on Wednesday. Cordons were expected to remain in place overnight while agencies continue to monitor the hillsides and fuel storage facilities.

Power cuts

About 3500 homes and businesses were still without power late on Wednesday night after winds gusting up to 160km/h caused outages, mostly on Banks Peninsula, but also in Christchurch city and across the region.

Lines company Orion warned at least half the properties without power would not have supply restored before Thursday. Customers without power are being advised to prepare in the event power is not restored on Wednesday.

Rivers burst, roads close

The Avon and Heathcote rivers burst their banks in Christchurch during high tide on Wednesday morning, flooding roads. Police said it was so bad in some areas that vehicles were floating in water.

Radio New Zealand's reporter in Christchurch said the Avon, usually about 10 metres wide, flooded to a width of about 100 metres in places, indundating parts of Avonside Drive and River Road. Other major roads affected included New Brighton Road, Fitzgerald Avenue, Gayhurst Road and Wainoni Road. Dyers Pass Road was closed by two slips.

Mayor Lianne Dalziel said Banks Peninsula has been cut off by road closures, and geotechnical staff were assessing the Port Hills for potential slips and rockfall. The coastal suburb of Sumner was also cut off as the high tide flooded access roads. The Lyttelton Tunnel is open.

Telco network affected

Cable outages caused by water damage are causing disruptions to landline and broadband customers in Christchurch. A Chorus spokesperson said staff are working to locate and restore faults, but significant flooding is likely to cause some delays.

The Little River Exchange at Banks Peninsula is running again thanks to a generator. Chorus and its power company partners are putting portable generators at other sites, including the Hilltop cellular site.

Floodwaters reached the city centre.

Floodwaters reached the city centre. Photo: SUPPLIED