Wellington homes evacuated by landslide

SAM BOYER AND MICHAEL DALY
Last updated 12:39 01/06/2013
Fairfax NZ

A huge hole has been left in the backyards of several Wellington houses after a massive slip.

Wellington slip
Dougal Townsend Zoom
The slip took out large areas of bush.

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A massive landslide in Wellington has swept away backyards and left houses teetering on a cliff edge.


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At least 90 people in the suburbs of Kingston and Berhampore were evacuated early this morning when a slip about 40 metres wide by 100 metres long came away from under houses in Priscilla Crescent.

A resident, who did not want to be identified, said her backyard had disappeared.

"My dad was the first one that noticed it, about 4.30am. He heard the ground cracking when it first started.

"He was looking out the window and the backyard was disappearing."

She and her father roused their neighbours, before the emergency services arrived.

Their house suffered extensive damage. "Our house has got a hole under it. We are at the epicentre, we're right at the big hole.

"We could hear the ground falling away. It was like slomp, slomp. You could hear it disappearing."

Jacqui Booth, who lives in Breton Grove, said she was woken by crashing and witnessed the drama.

"I went out on the deck at the back. It was like a torrent, a river, it was just so loud. There was a huge amount of water coming down.

"It was scary, extremely. You could hear the trees coming down and splintering. It was like, wow."

Booth and her family gathered some belongings, before being ordered from the street.

She collected photo albums, passports and wallets. Her son Reuben Nicholas-Booth, 12, said only had thoughts for his football kit, ahead of a morning game today.

"I still wanted to play," he said.

The noise from the slip was heard over several suburbs.

"I thought it was the precursor to an earthquake," said one witness, who asked not to be named.

A Wellington Free Ambulance spokesman said one person was taken to hospital with minor injuries.

"It was a woman, she fell while being evacuated from her house," he said.

There were five ambulances on site. "They helped evacuate the Kilmarnock Rest Home. They took 24 elderly people to the Huntly Rest Home in Karori."

Tony Soma was due to fly out to the Cook Islands on holiday tomorrow. He was relieved he was allowed back in to his house for a few minutes this morning to grab his belongings before being advised to find alternate accommodation.

"I just want to grab my bags. May bags are already packed," he said.

His house should be OK he was told, but things might remain up in the air for a few days.

"We get out alright about 4.30am. Someone came to the door and when it's that early in the morning, you think, 'What's going on.' But it [the house] should be alright."

Police said about 60 people were transferred to Karori.

Thirty-five residents were evacuated from the Kilmarnock rest home and taken to the Huntleigh rest home, Enliven Presbyterian Support Central general manager Nicola Turner said.

"There was absolutely never any danger to the residents," she said.

Kilmarnock was on a large property, and while the slip had come down on to part of the Kilmarnock driveway it was probably 100 to 200m from the building, Turner said.

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Staff at Kilmarnock had not heard the slip.

Planning was under way to find accommodation for the Kilmarnock residents, in case they were not allowed to return to their home today, she said.

SLIP STILL MOVING

Eight houses were badly damaged, local civil defence controller Stavros Michael said. Two of them could be condemned.

"There are two houses on the face of it ... they [residents] are likely to be out of their houses for at least two weeks."

While residents at the other six homes were allowed back in to their homes for belongings, the two worst homes were deemed "too risky", he said.

It was possible that a blocked sewerage pipe had caused the slip, he said.

Wellington Mayor Celia Wade-Brown said it was a relief no-one was badly hurt.

Anyone unable to return home would be supported by the council.

"There are houses that are balancing pretty precariously on the edge. It's a pretty rude awakening for people.

"Our welfare staff are working with them to make sure they've got accommodation."

Hotel and motel options would be provided. Private insurance and council insurance should cover all damages, the council said.

A Fairfax NZ reporter at the scene said noises were still coming from the slip. "You can hear stuff moving, it's almost creaking," he said.

The foundations of two homes looked to have been exposed by the slip.

A large number of emergency services were still at the scene this morning and the area remained cordoned off.

Council engineers were taking an urgent look at the houses at the top of the slip.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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