Lyttelton numb as truth of situation sinks in

Lyttelton faces a future without much of its historic precinct.

A loop of the oldest areas yesterday revealed many buildings from the port town's colourful past could be lost.

London St, home to several trendy bars and cafes, and Norwich Quay, on the waterfront, were badly affected.

Windows blew out, large cracks opened, and roofs and shop fronts collapsed.

Those worse for wear included the Lyttelton Lounge building, the old library and post office, museum, Lyttleton Times building, Canterbury Hotel, Forbes building, Royal Hotel and the Harbour Light Theatre.

Lyttelton chief fire officer Mark Buckley said yesterday the scene resembled a "battlefield".

About 60 per cent of the buildings had sustained damage, he predicted.

A makeshift welfare centre providing food and drinking water was established at the recreation centre on Monday.

Civil Defence manager Patricia Owen said there was an "element of numbness" about the town's fate.

"We've tried to stay focused on the people, so you do have to say, 'Oh bugger', and keep going," she said.

People were in shock on Monday, but yesterday was the "reality check", Owen said.

Accommodation for the displaced had been found.

"This time around, a lot of people have got damage in their homes," she said.

At the welfare centre, local man Lyle Phillips was among dozens of volunteers.

He was barbecueing fresh tuna and salmon, donated by a restaurant unable to open.

"I'm born and bred in Lyttelton, so you've got to come down and help out the people," Phillips said.

"From the damage that I've seen, the town is pretty devastated."

There had been a steady flow of people, who were "quite happy".

"There's food here for them, there's water, but everybody realises that there's no great injuries. That's got to be a great thing for us."

Expat American Terry Leach, a visitor from Timaru, escaped seconds before his car was buried in rubble on Norwich Quay.

His immediate reaction was to assist those in need.

"I just went straight to helping people. We can get another car," he said.

Lyttelton resident David Holme, who was lucky to escape a building collapse in Christchurch, said his wife and young daughter were caught in a pharmacy in London St.

He was frantic at not being able to contact them, but the pair was safe.

"I couldn't get hold of any of them on mobile, and after seeing the damage in town."

The Press