Residents allowed back into apartments after quake

6:03 am on 1 December 2016

Occupants of a Wellington apartment block evacuated after the earthquake have been allowed back home.

Emergency service outside Tennyson Apartments on Tennyson St, Wellington.  The apartments have been evacuated because of structural damage.

Emergency service outside the Tennyson Street apartments. Photo: RNZ / Aaron Smale

Forty people were evacuated from the Tennyson Street apartment block a fortnight ago, after engineers decided their building was unsafe.

Most in the 23-apartment block can return permanently.

But people on the second floor have been told to move out as more repairs are done.

One of those was Margaret Fife, who was allowed back in for only two days to pick up essentials and pack up her gear.

Her apartment shows very little signs of damage, apart from minor cracks on the walls and a broken toilet.

"I was very, very fortunate, only my lavatory. It's got a huge hole in it where a sculpture, rather inconveniently place above it, fell down and smashed it. And the sculpture, which is worth a lot more than the lavatory is in one piece, so I'm very lucky," she said.

Ms Fife said she wasn't sure how long the repairs would take, or how long she would have to live elsewhere.

Tania Wynn, who lives on the top floor said she was relieved to come home.

She returned to find her china cabinet, which she'd only recently bought, had fallen to the floor smashing all her china.

Other than that, there were few signs of damage.

She said the second floor bore the brunt of the earthquake because windows put in when the building was converted had weakened the building's structure.

"All the other floors on the building have smaller windows, so the stress of the building moving doesn't actually impact much at all, whereas those windows are huge and they take up the whole distance between each column, so it means that the loading goes on just the columns, not the wall strength."

Both women were full of praise for the engineers, building managers and the body corporate, all of whom had worked hard to assess the damage, make repairs and keep them up to date.

Mrs Wynn said some tenants hadn't been so lucky, and had been left in the dark by their landlords.

She said she thinks tenants should have been given the same access to information as building owners, and because they weren't, many are now moving out.

"The tenants have found it quite difficult. They've been quite frightened, they've been scared. We [the owners] have had a meeting with engineers which really reassured us, and they haven't had the same afforded them."

Movers and tenants were hauling mattresses and boxes out of the building yesterday, but they were reluctant to talk about it.