Workmen unscathed as Timeball Station collapses

MARC GREENHILL
Last updated 05:00 14/06/2011
Timeball Station
DON SCOTT/The Press
FINAL BLOW: The Timeball Station at Lyttelton was still standing, left, despite incurring more damage from the 1pm aftershock yesterday. The earthquake at 2.20pm almost destroyed the historic building.

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Lyttelton's historic Timeball Station tower collapsed during yesterday's 2.20pm earthquake while contractors were working on the site.

Work to dismantle the 1876 building, which was badly damaged in the September 4 quake and suffered more damage in February, began two weeks ago.

Workmen from Smiths Cranes were elevated in a cage when the magnitude-5.5 quake hit yesterday, but were uninjured.

New Zealand Historic Places Trust chief executive Bruce Chapman said while some of the building was still standing, the site was too dangerous to assess. It was too early to speculate on the building's future, he said.

"The absolute priority is ensuring public safety. Considerable care and attention had gone into the dismantling process to safeguard people as best as possible," he said.

Trust project manager Paul McGahan said the new damage was "`substantial".

"The mast and timeball is down the slope, near the gate at the front. There were two containers that did prevent material going forward and onto the road," he said.

Contractors and staff were safe, McGahan said.

"It was pretty nerve-racking. Contractors had just gone up in a cage to try and put a containment net around the front of the timeball," he said.

"The crane operator got them down pretty quickly and, fortunately, there was no-one up there on the second occasion."

Christchurch's historic Godley House also sustained serious damage yesterday.

The external walls on the top floor and three internal walls crumbled, and the veranda collapsed.

The 130-year-old building was due to be demolished.

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- The Press

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