Accidental treehouse: 'You're alive, that's the main thing'

An ancient elm cracked in fierce gales and hit a rented bungalow in Christchurch. Photo / APNZ
An ancient elm cracked in fierce gales and hit a rented bungalow in Christchurch. Photo / APNZ

When an ancient elm cracked in fierce gales last night and crashed into her roof, terrified Shannon Swann leapt onto her flatmate's knee, thinking Christchurch had been hit by another massive earthquake.

Shaking with fear, Ms Swann and Kylie McFaul ventured outside into the howling wind holding hands.

They were staggered to find it was not a quake which caused the loud bang, but a huge branch of the more than 80-year-old tree that had come down on to their rented bungalow.

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This morning they were waiting for news on what happens next, and counting their lucky stars.

"You're alive, that's the main thing," Dudley St neighbour James Bonell told 30-year-old Ms Swann.

The tree has broken tiles and guttering, but Ms Swan and Ms McFaul are unsure if there's any more significant damage.

Mr Bonell, 43, saw the tree come down about 11pm - the second to fall in the Richmond street last night - after shifting his car, afraid it would be crushed.

He said residents had been petitioning Christchurch City Council for years to get the elms trimmed right back, or even removed.

They were old, and diseased, he said.

"As nice as they are, life should come before beauty," Mr Bonell said.

Last night's storm, where gusts reached 130km/h in the city, was "shocking", he said, scaring his partner.

He's now worried that other trees might be damaged causing a real safety risk.

"This street is a deathtrap."

When a contractor asked Ms Swann if she had any kids and she said no, the contractor replied, "That's a pity, you've got a treehouse."

Ms Swann laughed, and that's how most resilient Cantabrians will be dealing with their latest spat with Mother Nature this morning.

As she says, what else can they do?

- APNZ

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