Two houses perched precariously on the edge of a huge landslip in Wellington may never be safe to live in again, the council says.
Residents of Priscilla Cres and Breton Grove in Berhampore reported hearing loud rumbling sounds as the face of a hillside came crashing down about 4.30am yesterday.
The slip forced the evacuation of eight homes and the Kilmarnock Heights Rest Home, which has an access way in the path of the slip.
Wellington City Council spokesman Richard Maclean said rest home residents were given the all-clear to return yesterday, but about 30 residents of private dwellings had to stay in emergency accommodation last night due to fears the slip could move again.
He said two properties on the edge of the slip, which was estimated to be 40m wide and 150m long, were now in a precarious state with their foundations exposed.
"They're in a dangerous condition."
Mr Maclean said it was not yet known whether those houses could ever be occupied again.
"That is the big question. There are some schools of thought that remedial work could be done to the top of the slip, but obviously that's got to be a decision made by EQC and the insurers and the council as well."
Mr Maclean said building inspectors and geotechnical engineers were this morning checking the ground and foundations at the evacuated properties.
"We're obviously looking at all the properties with a view to hopefully letting them back into them."
Emergency accommodation had been provided to about 30 people until Tuesday.
The council was hoping to let residents know before then whether they could return to their properties.
Mr Maclean said many of the residents were renters, so the council had been in touch with Housing New Zealand and the council's own social housing unit.
"If the houses are unusable, we're going to have to find them alternative rental accommodation."
Mr Maclean dismissed suggestions the slip had been caused by a burst water main.
He said a burst main had been reported on Friday and the council had inspected the street then, but no evidence of a burst main had been found.
Mr Maclean said a sewer main and a stormwater main which ran across the slope below the houses had been destroyed in the slip.
The sewer main had been temporarily reconnected, but sewage remained an environmental hazard in the cordoned off area around the slip.