Lightning struck homes at Sergeants Hill, near Westport, yesterday, wrecking appliances, causing a fire and shredding a phone cable.

Local resident Carol Keoghan said her 87-year-old mother was the only one at their Keoghan's Road home when it struck.

"It frightened the life out of her. She thought the sky had fallen in."

Mrs Keoghan's son, who was nearby on their farm, arrived quickly to help, she said.


It turned out that the strike had blown the phone off a cabinet it sat on.

"The cord which goes out of the phone into the wall is like little strands of liquorice, it completely exploded it."

Mrs Keoghan said the phone cord hung down behind her lounge suite and onto the carpet which were both left with scorch marks. There was also a lingering smell of smoke.

Other neighbours were hit too with at least one television set wrecked and landlines down, she said.

"A kilometre down the road from our place it's actually like you can see little mole hills where the cable is, as it's blown the phone cable out."

She said the phone company was due tomorrow, but she thought it would be some time before landlines were restored because of the cable damage.

House fire

Westport fire chief Alan Kennedy said firefighters received a call to a house fire at another Keoghan's Road property about 3.30pm yesterday.

The owner had returned home to find his house full of smoke and a fire on the kitchen bench.

Mr Kennedy said the man opened the house up and put the burning material into the kitchen sink.

He inhaled some smoke and his wife took him to hospital after firefighters arrived.

Firefighters suspected the house had been struck by lightning when they found the telephone jackpoint had been blown off the wall, papers which were underneath it were burnt and a small fire had started in the wall cavity.

Firefighters pulled off the lining and vented the house. The fire didn't spread.

Photos had been sent to fire safety officers in Nelson to confirm that it was lightning which had caused the fire, Mr Kennedy said.

While firefighters were at the property a nearby resident approached them and said she could smell burning plastic in her own house, he said.

Firefighters found lighting had blown the phone jack off the wall of her home.

Mr Kennedy said he heard this morning that the same thing had happened at another house down the road.

Karamea hit

The lightning storm continued to wreak havoc as it moved up the Coast.

Buller Electricity operations manager Alan Hawes said lightning struck at the top end of Arapito and Umere roads along the Karamea River. About a dozen households lost power between 4.45pm and midnight yesterday.

"Most of the work was high-voltage fuse replacement."

Electricians were also called to repair a blown meter board inside a house, Mr Hawes said.

"Lightning had actually got into the house and blown the meter board up."

People living between Charleston and Meybille Bay also lost power yesterday.

They were blacked out from 10am until about 4pm while linesmen fixed wind-damaged lines. About 50 people were affected, Mr Hawes said.

- Westport News