Vaimoana Tapaleao is the New Zealand Herald's Pacific Affairs and People reporter.

Wellington earthquake: Port open for business despite road falling in sea

Debris contained as clean-up work begins, including recovery of toppled container.

CentrePort was back in operation by yesterday afternoon, after it had been inspected for damage. Photo / Mark Mitchell
CentrePort was back in operation by yesterday afternoon, after it had been inspected for damage. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Wellington's shipping and cargo port will remain in business this week, as work to clean debris caused by the big quake begins.

Sunday afternoon's earthquake caused a huge chunk of a side road and sea wall to collapse into the harbour. Part of the port was cordoned off yesterday as engineers were called in to assess structural damage.

Despite that, the port was up and running by the afternoon, when at least one vessel had come in.

CentrePort chairman Warren Larsen said there was a lot of debris - concrete, wood and a container - that needed to be cleaned up. Otherwise, business was still running.

"It's down at the south end of the port, which is not a wharf, but a retaining wall adjacent to what was a road that provided us with access to the port.

"That's what has eroded and significant amounts of it has fallen into the sea. The sea wall is actually eroding a little bit at a time already. When it gets a bit further, we'll have to think about it in terms of what structure we put back. But for the moment, we've got some other things we need to sort out first."

An oil boom has been put in place to make sure debris does not flow out into the harbour.

The port holds close to 200 different sized containers.

"There's only one that's gone in the harbour," he said. "The bigger ones are quite a bit further away and they're safe."

The fallen container belongs to pest control company Kwikill Environmental Services.

Owner Mike Hermansson said much of what was inside was equipment used for fumigation purposes such as sheets and fans.

He guessed the equipment was worth around $10,000.

"I've got insurance, but it's still a hassle. We'll probably be able to salvage some things, like the sheets ... But the fans, once salt water gets into them they won't be worth anything."

Mr Hermansson said he had not been out to see the damage for himself, as authorities had asked the public to stay away.

Regional harbourmaster Mike Pryce said: "The actual container terminal and the cranes seem to be all right, as far as I know. It's just the south end that's causing us problems."

- NZ Herald

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