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Beam in New Zealand Building Fractures and Causes Collapse Risk

Wellington authorities in New Zealand were forced to close Molesworth Street because one of its buildings presented a collapse risk. Three homes and a number of buildings were evacuated near the 10-storey high-rise. Police diverted traffic after cordoning off the street and sections of adjacent Hill Street.

Brendan Nally, Fire Service regional commander, said that during the process of a post-earthquake building review, engineers discovered a broken structural beam on the fifth floor.

Mr Nally said that the vertical beam was “fractured through”, like a broken leg bone. The condition of this major supporting beam put the top four floors of the building at risk. He described it as a “clear structural failure” and added that the building has been declared unsafe by engineers.

It was not immediately evident what caused the damage to the beam, which was by the lift shaft, or whether the building, which was under renovation, would have to be demolished.

Mr Nally said that the area would remain closed off until a decision was made about how to proceed.

Molesworth Street connects to the motorway and is heavily travelled by commuters. The evacuated buildings include the Red Cross, the Thai Embassy, St. Pauls Cathedral, and New Zealand Rugby.

The defect was discovered after engineers had been inspecting almost 50 buildings that had been in the area of the earthquake. Several tall buildings in the CDB had been damaged in the wake of the 7.5 quake near Hamner, sending glass raining into the streets.

Structural Defects Insurance

Several of the affected buildings were on reclaimed land on the Wellington waterfront, including the BNZ and Statistics New Zealand.

Staff at the latter were advised that they could not come back for several months after earthquake damage compromised two floors. Chief executive Liz McPherson posted a Facebook message advising staff that she would seek an explanation as to why a new building could be damaged so heavily.

According to a BNZ employee, they could not return to their building for at least a week.

The Te Papa building reopened after engineers inspected it and found no residual  structural issues.

The offices for the Greater Wellington Regional Council were assessed closely by engineers after subsidence created gaps in between the floor and the walls. Chris Laidlaw, council chairman, said that it would be weeks before staff could return.

Some areas of the CBD remained cordoned off because officials were concerned about more debris and glass being scattered by strong winds.

Bus services and commuter trains resumed, but many services were subsequently impacted by flooding. Carriages arriving in Wellington had a fraction of the usual passenger load.

Engineers have inspected the Westpac Stadium and declared it to be free of any serious structural damage, although the seating bowl and internal concourse would remain closed until necessary repairs were completed.

The earthquake cracked concrete, broke windows, burst water pipes, and flooded the ring road surrounding the stadium.

The stadium offices and public car park’s ground level remained open.

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