Quake turns chimneys into projectiles

KELSEY FLETCHER
Last updated 12:00 21/01/2014

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Old chimneys and property brickwork turned into hazardous missiles when a large earthquake rocked Manawatu, prompting warnings about the dangers such structures pose.

Palmerston North resident David Higgs was about to climb a scaffold at his Ferguson St house when the quake struck just before 4pm yesterday, toppling his chimney.

"I'm renovating my house and had just mixed the paint," he said. "We didn't realise until after checking it but you can see daylight from inside now, and the bricks broke the roof outside.

"The chimney was teetering over and had moved so it was about to tip off."

The Earthquake Commission recommends chimneys be well braced to withstand an earthquake as the portion of the chimney above the roofline can be particularly dangerous. They can be braced or replaced with a lighter metal flue in conjunction with the installation of a solid fuel heater.

Mr Higgs said he didn't even hear the chimney come down over the noise of everything else moving in the earthquake.

"I was deciding on whether to take it down for the renovations anyway," he said. "It took the Fire Service about half an hour to sort out."

Two neighbouring houses on nearby McGiffert St also needed quake-damaged chimneys removed.

Students Katie James and Isabel Tait had just moved into their flat on Saturday.

Miss Tait said she was in the back of the house when she thought a big truck drove past before she realised it was an earthquake.

"I ran out the back because I didn't know what the house was like in an earthquake, I hadn't even stayed a night," she said. "Then a neighbour came over and said the chimney was about to fall through the roof."

Miss Tait's neighbour Katrina Nicholson was disappointed her fireplace was damaged beyond repair.

"When it came down there was a lot of bricks and dust that came into the house," she said.

"But I'm just glad everyone is OK, it's an old house."

Maria Dalziel, who lives on Leeds St, Palmerston North, said her brick fence toppled "like a house of cards".

The fence was only knee-high, but could have seriously injured someone - possibly a child - if they were walking past, she said.

"Some of it was still standing, so I pushed that over to make sure it didn't hurt anyone."

Ms Dalziel said neighbours had been popping in on each other to make sure everyone was all right.

"The community support has come through," she said.

"There have been people from three doors down coming over to make sure no-one is hurt."

Cracks were seen in roads including Apollo Parade in Palmerston North and Pahiatua-Pongaroa Rd, which was shut to vehicles.

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The City Fitness gym on Pitt St was also damaged when some of the ceiling panels and insulation fell down on the basketball court.

"A couple of [ceiling] panels came down here and there," City Fitness Palmerston North receptionist Tim Kershaw said.

"We had to evacuate quickly but we closed today at 5pm anyway."

Mr Kershaw said no-one was injured and it didn't appear as though any equipment was damaged.

- Manawatu Standard

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