Boulders block highway

GRANT BRYANT IN QUEENSTOWN
Last updated 13:09 23/08/2013
Rockfall
The cluster of boulders that closed State Highway 6 today.

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A gigantic rockfall has cut off southern access to the West Coast.

A cluster of large boulders the size of a house closed State Highway 6, after falling onto the road overnight.

NZ Transport Agency senior asset manager for the West Coast, Mark Pinner, said the massive rockfall, measuring about 10 square meters, struck about 1km west of Clarke's Bluff.

''(The rocks are) about the size of a house, weighing 200 to 300 tonnes. Early indications are that it will not be possible to remove the rock without blasting it into chunks,'' Mr Pinner said.

''Our contractors are already on site assessing stability of the rock face and a specialist driller is heading to the site to begin work as quickly as possible to remove the rock and re-open the highway.''

A specialist geotechnical expert is also on standby to fly into the area if required.

The road is currently closed to all traffic. The situation will be updated at 3pm.

''The size of the rock does mean, however, that if we are able to get the road re-opened later today, it is likely to be only single-lane.''

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