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Eviction shock for amputee

ASHLEIGH STEWART
Last updated 05:00 31/03/2014
Bernard Egan
KIRK HARGREAVES/Fairfax NZ
SPEEDY SHIFT: Bernard Egan is one of several residents living in a block of flats in Avalon St, Richmond, who have been told to vacate quickly, as the building is not up to earthquake code.

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Double-amputee Bernard Egan is "still in shock" at being ousted from his home of six years, with just a week's notice.

Egan, 70, is one of seven residents of the Christchurch City Council-owned HP Smith Courts housing complex given seven days to vacate their homes after engineering investigations found significant structural damage.

"I came here with two legs, and I'm leaving with none," Egan told The Press yesterday, as his two caregivers packed his possessions into boxes around him.

"It's come out of the blue. I was in shock. Everybody else was too."

Egan lost both of his legs to blocked arteries six months apart shortly after he moved into the complex.

He has a specialised shower worth $6000 and relies on his chemist and doctor nearby.

Relocating, especially on such short notice, was "an involved process", Egan said.

"But it's understandable. You've got to face facts and the fact is that the building's shagged."

A detailed engineering evaluation carried out last year showed the complex was 35 per cent of the new building code, but further testing carried out for insurance purposes found "significant structural damage".

The council has pledged to help those affected, many of whom are elderly, find alternative accommodation as soon as possible.

Egan said council staff who had visited him had been "very good", but did not appear to have prior knowledge that he was in a wheelchair.

"I'm a priority now. The guy that was in here said he'll pull out all the stops."

Carol Chenery, one of Egan's caregivers, said she would spend the next few days at his house helping him to pack.

"Bernie has quite specific needs. For him to shift, it's a huge deal."

One resident in the worst-affected of the social housing units was moved out on Friday, the day after the investigation was completed.

The 84-year-old woman "had time to grab her handbag and pills and go to her daughter's house, and that was it", Chenery said.

Residents living in other units in the complex will remain there, as the buildings had been previously deemed to have minimal damage.

However, engineers would be carrying out further intrusive investigations to confirm this.

Egan said he would miss the close-knit "family" those in the complex had become.

"We get on well together and we're a really good team. But now, I may never see them again," he said.

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- The Press

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