Ita's tail leaves a brutal sting

DEIDRE MUSSEN
Last updated 05:00 19/04/2014
West Coast Cyclone Ita
DEIDRE MUSSEN/ Fairfax NZ

TAKING AIM: Children entertain themselves in the wreckage of the Greymouth Municipal Band hall in Blaketown was completely destroyed in yesterday’s storm.

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Destroyed buildings. Roofs off. Trees downed. Powerlines snapped.

The brutal force of nature gave the West Coast an unforgettable Good Friday yesterday.

Powerful winds in Greymouth and Cobden unleashed by Cyclone Ita's tail caused widespread damage on Thursday and yesterday, including destroying the Greymouth Municipal Band hall in Blaketown.

Band members worked to salvage musical equipment and other items exposed to the weather.

"I knew part of the roof was off but I didn't realise how bad it was until I turned up at 8.30 this morning," band member Garry Dixon said yesterday. "At least no-one was hurt and we're insured."

Dale Kennedy, 34, who lived opposite the hall with his fiancee, Phillipa Ryan and 2-year-old son Chase Kennedy, watched in horror as the hall imploded.

Roofing iron flew off and hit their neighbour's home, where Ryan's elderly aunt and uncle live.

"Then we saw a big chunk of the roof come off. That came across the road and hit the front of their house. It smashed their roof's main bearers. It was like a flower opening."

He rushed across the road to help them, dodging flying tin while a friend watched his back in case he was struck, but the friend got hit by a piece of 4x2 timber.

After leaping the fence, Kennedy urged his neighbours to quickly grab their medications and flee. "I don't think they understood how bad it was."

At Greymouth Airport a hanger with eight planes inside was blown to pieces.

The building's co-owner, Evan Grooby, was trying to secure a neighbouring hanger and watched in disbelief as his building disintegrated.

A gust of wind "like a freight train" snapped thick wooden beams supporting the hanger "like carrot", he said.

"It was there one minute and gone the next."

Planes were flipped upside down and strewn among the debris. Many were significantly damaged.

The building was insured but not everything inside was insured.

"We once were aviators, but now we don't have planes to go flying in. Where do you go from here?"

R and N Trading Post owner Kevin Frewin wondered the same thing after his Greymouth secondhand shop's roof lifted and trashed his livelihood.

"I'm a bit devastated really. It's 25 years of my life," the 70-year-old said.

"I just can't believe the inside of it. It was just a shambles."

He and his staff fled the building about 4.30pm on Thursday. An hour later a friend called to say the roof had collapsed.

"If we'd been there an hour later, someone would have got hurt."

Frewin returned to the scene that night but the wind was so strong he spent 10 minutes clutching the building, fearing he would be blown away.

Blaketown resident Donna Swallow and her husband Allan were gobsmacked when the wind blew their front door into splinters on Thursday afternoon.

"We were running and it was firing glass at us through the house."

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- Fairfax Media

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