9500 without power, Haast Pass still closed
State Highway 6 at Haast Pass will not reopen today after severe weather brought down boulders "the size of houses" on Wednesday.
The NZ Transport Agency (NZTA) said at midday that the road would remain closed because of difficulties clearing the 50-metre high slip at Diana Falls, between the Gates of Haast Bridge and the Haast Pass summit.
NZTA West Coast area manager Mark Pinner said further inspection by technical engineering teams late yesterday and again this morning showed clearing the slip was more complex than initially thought.
"One of the major issues is safely bringing down three large boulders about the size of houses that are perched high up on the slip face. We need to get assurance that they are stable or if not they will be sluiced or blasted free."
NZTA hoped to give motorists a likely time for the reopening by tomorrow morning.
Homes still without electricity
More than 9500 Canterbury homes remain without power this morning, with some storm-affected residents warned their electricity will not be restored until next week.
Some progress was made yesterday, with power restored to a further 9000 customers yesterday and another 2000 overnight in the Orion network area - covering between the Waimakariri and Rakaia rivers.
Only 6500 Orion customers are still without electricity.
Selwyn and Waimakariri residents were the worst-affected by Tuesday's storm that saw wind gusts of more than 100kmh uproot trees, ignite scrub and shed fires, lift roofs and cut power to more than 30,000 homes.
"We appreciate that for customers still without power it is difficult and frustrating, and we apologise and thank them for their patience," Orion chief executive Rob Jamieson said.
"Unfortunately, given the severity and extent of the damage, it's likely that some customers could remain without power until Monday."
Those still without power were mainly in the rural region west of Christchurch, although some smaller areas within the city were also affected.
"The damage is significant and it is not easy repair work and our plan is to restore the network mostly from an east to west direction. Our priority is to reconnect the areas with the most customers first, before moving onto those faults which only affect a small number of customers," he said.
MainPower, which covers North Canterbury and Kaikoura, estimated 3000 homes were still without power this morning, most in the Swannanoa, Loburn, Ashley and Clarkville areas, and smaller numbers in rural areas around Cheviot and Waipara.
About 14,000 North Canterbury homes were initially without power after the storm, representing 40 per cent of MainPower's total customers.
Sefton cropping farmer Ian Batchelor has just enough power to keep his freezer going, but a three-acre plantation behind his house has largely been flattened.
"It was always meant to be for firewood, but I didn't want it all at once.
"This is certainly the most [wind damage] I've seen since '75 when I was a kid and that flattened Canterbury."
Batchelor managed to borrow a small generator from a friend yesterday, ensuring his frozens could stay frozen, but it was not enough to power the rest of the house.
No power also meant no flowing water, but the family could take water from a nearby well using buckets.
Several schools had a second day off yesterday, including 250 pupils at Fernside School, which remained without power, water and sewerage.
Principal David Taylor said he hoped the school, located just west of Rangiora, could reopen today, but staff still needed to figure out a way of making the dozens of fallen trees at the back of the school safe.
"Our kids are pretty good . . . But it's what happens in the weekend. We'd used [the plantation] as a BMX-type track.
"There's been earthquakes, snow and now this.
"When I was a kid at school the only time the school closed that I remember . . . was when the Pope died. I don't remember anything like this; it's been a run."
Meanwhile, a large forest fire in Cramptons Bush Rd, near Amberley, was still burning yesterday and two firefighters were monitoring the situation as a "safety precaution", a Fire Service spokeswoman said.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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