Sprinkler breaks and floods Wellington's Unity Books video

Stuff.co.nz

Unity books' staff desperately covered books as water rained down from the ceiling.

A ceiling collapse ripped open a sprinkler above Unity Books on Willis St in Wellington this morning, causing devastating flooding to three shops downstairs.

Refitter John Stive was stripping the old Kathmandu shop on level one of Willbank House when a bulkhead, or upright wall partition, collapsed due to old wood studs. A sprinkler pipe was embedded in the ceiling and burst in the collapse, at about 11.30am, Stive said.

The pressurised water jet could not be stopped until the Fire Service arrived, he said.

CLEAN UP: A staff member at Unity Books on Willis St in Wellington rescues books after the store was flooded by a burst pipe.
ASHTEN MACDONALD/Fairfax NZ

CLEAN UP: A staff member at Unity Books on Willis St in Wellington rescues books after the store was flooded by a burst pipe.

Unity Books staff spent the hours after the pipe burst scrambling to save books, putting tarpaulins over displays and catching water in buckets. Fire fighters helped rescue books at the height of the flood.

OfficeMax next door was also flooded at the back of its shop, and game cafe Caffeinated Dragon was evacuated due to flooding and ceiling panels collapsing into the shop.

Unity Books owner Tilly Lloyd could not be contacted this afternoon, but the shop left this message for customers on its Facebook page: "We'll be doing our utmost best to be back on our feet as soon as possible, soggy but unbroken."

GOOD NEWS: Matt Bialostocki, who works at Unity Books, posted this on Twitter saying they had saved the NZ fiction.
MATT BIALOSTOCKI/Twitter

GOOD NEWS: Matt Bialostocki, who works at Unity Books, posted this on Twitter saying they had saved the NZ fiction.

A sign outside the shop said "Closed due to literary precipitation; open again on Saturday."

Staff showed their mettle in the face of adversity by posting humourous literary quotes about water and floods on its street-facing windows. Herman Melville was quoted from Moby Dick: "The great floodgates of the wonderworld swing open." 

Board game cafe Caffeinated Dragon had its first day of trading cancelled by the flood. The shop had just moved from its previous location on Willis St to the Wakefield St side of Willbank House.

BURST PIPE: Firefighters at Willbank House, on Willis St in Wellington, where bookstore Unity Books has been evacuated.
ALEX LIU/Fairfax NZ

BURST PIPE: Firefighters at Willbank House, on Willis St in Wellington, where bookstore Unity Books has been evacuated.

"More and more water came down. It was basically raining inside the shop," owner Susan Wells said.

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Many board games for sale were shrink-wrapped so would not have been damaged, but the shop's display cases and shelving might have been ruined, Wells said.

The China Travel Service, just behind Caffeinated Dragon in Willbank House, was not affected by the flood.

When first floor owner Angela Vinaccia was contacted this afternoon, her business partner answered the phone, refused to comment or be named, and said Vinaccia was unavailable.

 - The Dominion Post

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