Buildings Damaged, at Risk After Quake


A nine-story building in central Wellington was at risk of collapse Tuesday (Nov. 15) in the wake of a 7.8-magnitude earthquake that struck New Zealand early Monday.

The building, on Molesworth Street in the national capital, not far from the New Zealand Parliament buildings and High Court, was under renovation and was vacant at the time of the collapse, according to a fire official who spoke with TVNZ.

According to reports, an inspection showed that a vertical structural beam supporting the top four floors of the building was fractured. “It looks somewhat like a broken bone in the leg,” fire chief Brendan Nally told New Zealand news source Stuff.

'Significant Risk'

Engineers declared the building, at 61 Molesworth, to be “at significant risk of collapse,” according to Stuff. Emergency personnel cordoned off the area Tuesday, and will work with the building owner to determine the next step. Nearby buildings that have been evacuated include the Red Cross offices, the Thai embassy, the National Library, the national rugby headquarters, Cathedral St. Paul and some residences.

Wellington Mayor Justin Lester said Tuesday that it was “unlikely” the building would collapse, but that residents should observe the cordon, according to Stuff.

Government Building Damaged

About half a mile away, the newly renovated headquarters of Statistics New Zealand, the government’s statistics bureau, was the site of a roof collapse. According to reports, two concrete beams became separated from the building exterior, causing a portion of the ceiling on the ground and first floors to collapse.

Derek Nind, the chief executive of CentrePort, the property that the Statistics New Zealand building is part of, said in a statement that the upper floors of the building, which had recently been renovated, were in good shape, but the older, lower floors sustained damage.

The building went up in 2005, built to house the bureau.

Government Statistician Liz MacPherson asked in a Facebook video, “How is it that a building that is as new as Stats House, with the [earthquake] code rating it had, could suffer this sort of damage?”

The Statistics New Zealand building could be closed for months, possibly even up to a year, as a result of the damage, reports say. About 500 employees of the department and other government entities work in the building.

Shed 39, a Greater Wellington Regional Council building that’s also part of CentrePort, sustained damage as well.

Additional Damage

Early Wednesday (Nov. 16), Stuff reported that another central Wellington building, at Taranaki Street and Manners Street, is showing signs of damage. Around 1:30 a.m. Wednesday, according to the news site, an individual called emergency responders after hearing a cracking noise coming from the building.

Police and fire officials on the scene said there was no danger of imminent collapse at that site.

Earthquake Impact

Citizens were asked to stay out of Wellington’s central business district Monday after the quake hit just after midnight Monday morning. Teams of engineers spent the day inspecting buildings and infrastructure for damage.

The earthquake claimed at least two lives, and cut off the South Island town of Kaikoura, where aircraft and ships were brought in to help with evacuations. After the quake, severe weather, including flooding, hit the already-damaged Wellington area. Hundreds of aftershocks have been felt in the days since the initial temblor.



Tagged categories: Architecture; Asia Pacific; Building Envelope; Commercial / Architectural; concrete

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