Quake-hit office block demolition under way

1:15 pm on 28 November 2016

Demolition of a quake-damaged Wellington office block is under way this morning.

The top floors of the office block at 61 Molesworth Street are being taken down by crane.

The 10-storey building was damaged in the 14 November earthquake and is at risk of collapse in a strong aftershock. Surrounding buildings and homes have been evacuated and roads closed.

The deconstruction was due to start yesterday but strong winds in the capital forced the work to be postponed.

The city council's building control officer, Mike Scott, said a strong aftershock last night caused concern for the building, but only the fences around the site fell down.

Several quakes rattled the centre of the country last night.

A 4.5-magnitude quake 35km west of Paraparaumu, which struck at 9.31pm, was felt in the lower North and upper South islands.

Shortly after a strong 4.8 quake hit near Seddon. It hit hat 9.42pm, was a shallow at 11km below the surface and and felt strongly from Canterbury to the centre of the North Island. That was followed in the same area by a 4.1 magnitude jolt at 10.05pm and several smaller quakes, including a 3.8 at 1.49am.

It will take about two weeks to get the Molesworth Street building down, after which a big portion of the road can be reopened.

Demolition company Ceres has said the building has asbestos, like most of its vintage, and precautionary measures would be taken during the project.

Preparation work was carried out last week and a car park building next to the office block was demolished.

Port restricted for months

Wellington's container terminal was so badly damaged by the earthquake it may have to rely for months on self-loading ships and mobile cranes to get back to even 30 percent capacity.

Cracks, buckling and liquefaction from the quake put part of the port out of action.

Port chairman Lachie Johnstone said a container ship arrives tomorrow and will basically unload itself.

"We've got a couple of options, the predominant one is using what we call geared ships, that have cranes on them. The one that's berthing tomorrow, the Penelope, that has its own gear. We have medium term solutions, which are mobile cranes but by that point we're hoping to have our gantry crane operating again."

Lachie Johnstone said not all ships have their own cranes so the port needed to find other ways to resume full work.

He expects that in six months after some re-configuration and handling the cargo in different ways, the port will have the capacity to move even more containers than before.

View RNZ's full coverage of the earthquakes here.

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Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

RNZ has kept a running list of all the buildings in Wellington affected by the 7.8 earthquake on 14 November. Check them on the map here.

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