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Residents of an entire Christchurch street say their dream homes are a write-off after the land liquefied underneath and swamped the properties in sewage and silt.
Seabreeze Close, in the suburb of Bexley, yesterday had four diggers ploughing silt and sewage off driveways into 2m-high mounds in the middle of the street.
The street, part of a residential development just three years old, is one of the worst-hit in the earthquake.
Grey sludge gushed out of cracks in the road, lawns and even floors on Saturday morning, covering the insides and the outsides of houses up to 30cm deep.
Lavina Pockson, 32, could not hold back tears as she told of her loss.
Mrs Pockson and her husband Jeff had just finished building a nursery for their 3-month-old and a patio.
She had dreamt of raising her three children and growing old with Jeff in the house.
"It's not happening now. It's hard when you think how you worked so hard to build something up. I'm still in shock. I think we all are. I can't hide my feelings. I'm gutted," she said.
The family had temporarily moved in with Mrs Pockson's mother, but the couple were back at the house yesterday salvaging what they could.
The only neighbour who had stayed overnight reported looters in vans entering houses. "To think of someone coming into our house and taking our stuff on top of all this is too much," she said. She was yet to come to terms with having to make a move.
"Our 5-year-old just started school, and she's loving it. To have to move - it's difficult."
Some of the surrounding area is hardly damaged, but as soon as you turn into Seabreeze Close, there is a scene of devastation.
Residents think it is because the land had been a swamp, sucked dry and filled with dirt for the subdivision.
They say the development should never have been built.
"They're going to bulldoze the whole street. It was a great place - nice, friendly neighbours. Mostly first-time owners," said Annette Preen, whose house had splintered and been drenched in silt. It was an immediate write-off. "We'll just have to abandon it. We'll all have to leave here."
Power has not been restored.
Keith Lush tried to find the humour in the situation. His yard had two "islands" of grass that had swollen into a mound rising above the sludge.
So he brought out a deckchair, sun umbrella and beer and said he would enjoy what few men in New Zealand had - a private island.
But he had given up taking off muddy shoes when walking inside. "What's the point?" Mr Lush asked.
His two teenage children had to stay at friends' houses until they could find a new place to come back together.
Christchurch City Council spokeswoman Rachel Graham said last night a decision had not yet been made on the future of the homes in Seabreeze Close. "We are still assessing the situation," she said.
Sue and Chris Holmes had prepared for death during the unreal Saturday morning. Their three dogs barked wildly for two minutes before the house rocked violently. Mr and Mrs Holmes grabbed each other and said: "See you in heaven, honey."
Then the street went dead quiet. Mr Holmes opened the front door to see what had happened, and tonnes of sludge suddenly broke through sealed roads, yards and floorboards.
In just one minute, the neighbourhood became sunk in sludge.
But Mrs Holmes managed to save one thing - her daughter's wedding dress. She ran straight for it when the sludge gushed out and her daughter was happily married that afternoon.
"I told her, the earth literally moved for you."By Michael Dickison Email Michael