300 Wellington people still out of their homes after earthquake

By Melissa Nightingale

More than 100 Wellington people may be putting up their Christmas trees in temporary homes this year as they face weeks of waiting to return to their apartments post-earthquake.

About 300 people in total are still out of their homes because of earthquake damage, and about half of those must wait at least four weeks until the Reading Cinema carpark building in Central Wellington has undergone structural strengthening.

Rob Zorn has had to buy new clothes and other items after he was given just a couple of minutes to snatch up less than two changes of clothes and evacuate his apartment on Thursday.

Zorn lives in an apartment block neighbouring the significantly damaged carpark building on Tory St, which Fire Service regional commander Brendan Nally said was likely to collapse in a strong aftershock, putting all the buildings around it at risk.

Although Wellington Mayor Justin Lester earlier said it would be about a month before Tory St residents could return home, the Wellington Region Emergency Management Office (Wremo) was now saying people would be out of their apartments "until further notice".

Zorn, who was one of the residents who may have to wait until Christmas or later to get into their apartments, said the

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Not only was he stuck away from home, he was also without his car, which was inside the cordon.

"It's been quite a disruption to my life and my work," he said.

Zorn said there were still "lots of positives" though.

"I was home when I was evacuated so I had two minutes to grab things, which is a lot better than people who came home and had nothing."

He was able to stay with a friend and use their internet for work, as he is a self-employed writer.

Although the experience has been difficult, Zorn was philosophical about it.

"I can't do anything about it, it's no one's fault, there's no one I can go after."

He would take it a day at a time.

Zorn was grateful for all the people who had offered him accommodation, places to work and general support.

"Even though it's a bad time it's shown that people are really good. The basic human kindness of people has really come to the fore. That's been quite humbling and I'm really grateful."

Wremo spokeswoman Janet Purdey said residents would be out of their homes "until further notice", as it was "an ever-changing situation".

Strengthening the carpark building was expected to take two to four weeks, and nobody would be allowed back in before then.

"They won't be able to get in for at least four weeks. Everyone is aware that people want to get back in, but public safety is paramount," Purdey said.

The carpark building is one of the worst hit in the city, along with the Statistics NZ building and a high-rise office building at 61 Molesworth St.

The demolition of the building, with an 85-tonne machine brought up from Christchurch, may start on Thursday or Friday, once preparation work including turn off power, gas and other services has been done.

- NZ Herald

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