EQC starts to assess Gisborne quake claims

Last updated 00:00 01/01/2009

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The Earthquake Commission (EQC) is today starting to assess damage claims estimated to cost more than $16 million after last month's massive earthquake in Gisborne.

The earthquake, which measured 6.8 on the Richter scale struck Gisborne on December 20, partially collapsing buildings and leaving gaping holes in roadways.

An EQC spokeswoman said today it had received 3126 claims at an estimated cost of more than $16 million.

Forty EQC damage assessors started working in the city today from a temporary office.

The EQC deals with only residential claims.

Insurance Council of New Zealand insurance manager John Lucas told NZPA the number of commercial claims and cost of the damage should be known later this week or next.

Gisborne Civil Defence emergency management officer Richard Steele said 13 buildings in the central business district were still cordoned off as of Friday – one of which had been demolished for rebuilding.

Approximately another 50 residential and commercial properties would need some sort of repairs done to them.

"Apart from a few little barriers around town, it would be hard know that anything's even happened," he said today.

A lot of temporary repairs had been done, but the buildings needed to be assessed before being permanently repaired, Mr Steele said.

"I guess anyone will know whether there's going to be a tradesman shortage or not once that process starts, we'll have to wait and see."

The EQC assessments would drive a lot of what was going to happen over the next couple of weeks, he said.

"I understand the insurance companies are working through the business sector looking at what needs to be done there to reinstate and fix the damage to the buildings and the CBD.

"That's going to take another couple of weeks, I believe, before they've got a full handle on that."

Mr Steele said all the people who had been displaced had returned home or gone to new accommodation.

"Things are just sort of settling back into normal routine really."

The response agencies were having a debrief tomorrow to see how all the teams had worked together, he said.

"It seems to have gone quite smoothly really the way that people have reacted and responded to the event.

"Everything sort of just clicked and came together and people got on and did it."

Mr Steele said civil defence was encouraging people to have their chimneys checked before use, even if they could not see any obvious damage.

It was also encouraging people to check on their neighbours, because there were a lot of elderly people, especially those living alone, who had not reported damage, he said.

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"We found an old lady just last week, whose chimney's actually leaning off the side of the house. She just said `I don't want to bother anybody'."

It was also an opportunity to see if they were all right mentally, he said.

"Sometimes it takes a little bit of time for the shock of what's actually happened to settle in and they might have lost some things that are really valuable to them and they're starting to dwell on it.

"So just be a good neighbour, have a cup of tea and a biscuit and chat make sure everyone's happy."

- NZPA

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