Gravestones face long wait for repairs

SAM SACHDEVA
Last updated 05:00 03/10/2012
Linwood Cemetery.
DAVID HALLETT/Fairfax NZ
GENTLY DOES IT: City Care workers lift an earthquake-damaged headstone at Linwood Cemetery.

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Repairing thousands of earthquake-damaged gravestones in Christchurch cemeteries could take a decade, the team managing the repairs says.

The city's cemeteries took a battering in the quakes, with some historic gravestones toppling over and others teetering precariously.

Workers are assessing the damage at city council cemeteries to determine how much repairs will cost and to develop a plan to fix the headstones.

City Care worker Tom Adams, who leads the team assessing the cemeteries, said more than 7000 headstones needed to be inspected and repaired.

The quakes had cracked some headstones into more than a dozen pieces.

"It's unbelievable. It was like taking the everyday vandalism and multiplying it by 100 or 1000."

He said the team's focus was on putting damaged headstones on the ground so they did not fall and injure someone.

"Some of these headstones are two tonnes, so if there's an earthquake and it comes down, it could take a limb or kill you."

Small headstones were being glued together and put back up, he said, but the bigger monuments would take more time to repair. Adams said the workers had to glue some back together, put stainless steel rods in for reinforcement, and put them back in place with concrete backing and stronger foundations.

The teams had been working in "rain, hail and snow" to fix the cemeteries since the quakes, and the workers had formed an emotional connection to the graves, Adams said.

"You start working on the headstones and read the person's name, and by the time you're done, you feel like you've done something for them. It's a lovely feeling to get them back."

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- The Press

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