Quake caught engineers out in the open
The Hotel Grand Chancellor was swaying from side to side, metres at a time, but structural engineer Carl Devereux could do nothing but watch and wait while other buildings crumbled around Cashel Street on June 13, 2011.
He and three others were standing in front of the hotel during the second of the two big earthquakes that day doing an engineering assessment on the hotel that was later demolished after being stabilised.
Luckily the building held together through the quakes. There were a few stiff whiskies later that night, Devereux said.
"We actually had to make a conscious decision to stand there in front of the building and not move away from it, because away from it there was a [masonry] building collapsing down the street."
As a specialist member of international engineering firm Aurecon, Devereux was drawn down from Nelson by the emergency to work for Civil Defence then seconded into the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority. He has now been with the authority 13 months.
He and other Aurecon engineers, including Jan Kupec (geotechnical), had already worked as part of the the New Zealand Fire Service-Usar team during the September and February quakes. He was one of five engineers nationally contracted to Usar (Urban Search and Rescue).
For the February event he was called to make engineering checks on the collapsed CTV building as the last of the survivors were dragged from the rubble. He remained on site for three days.
"When we arrived there was a live rescue being carried out which actually ended up being the last live person pulled out of the building," he said.
The engineers worked closely with the Usar team on the day, making sure they recommended the safest approach, though Devereux says now that rescuers will go in whether or not the building or route is judged safe.
Christchurch office manager, Murray Fletcher said at the time of the September 2010 earthquake, Aurecon in Christchurch had 60 staff.
Today it employs 140 and by June 2013 it will be 200, of a similar size to the Auckland and Wellington Aurecon offices.
The company's building team will move into new premises in Colombo St near Smiths City in about a month. The other units – land development, roads and highways, special services and geotech, would remain in a Cavendish Rd Casebrook office.
A growing amount of Christchurch work was being sent to other Aurecon offices around New Zealand and overseas.
Drafting, design and solutions work would go to Hong Kong and a specialist international unit in Bangkok, Thailand.
Staff were also being recruited overseas to work in Christchurch and elsewhere in New Zealand.
- © Fairfax NZ News