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Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Strong Winds Could Delay Rescue Effort

Strong winds could delay rescue effort

Published: 7:21AM Wednesday March 02, 2011 Source: ONE News

The threat of high winds could lead to the suspension of search and rescue work in the CBD.

Head of Urban Search and Rescue Russell Wood said if the wind goes beyond a certain threshold, USAR teams may have to halt operations because of the danger from unstable structures.

Winds picked up to around 50km/h just after midday, but are expected to strengthen to about 90km/h, sparking concerns about people breathing in earthquake debris.

The gale force northwesterlies were expected in the city and across Canterbury this morning before easing during the rest of the day.

Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker told TV ONE's Breakfast that he was already "rubbing his eyes and coughing a little bit" and that there would be "choking clouds of dust in some areas of the city".

"This is a very hot wind, it's going to be a very warm day I suspect," he said.

He said face masks would be compulsory today for all rescue workers and that millions of masks would be brought into Christchurch within the next 48 hours for residents.

Parker said that when tests where undertaken following the September 4 earthquake, the dust was not toxic.

However, he said the dust was a "bad irritant" for anyone with even a mild respiratory problem.

"The other side of it is that it will pick up materials and blow them around a bit and there's a lot of loose stuff," he said.

"So be very aware, take precautions. If you can put a pile of stuff in a place where it's not going to blow around it will help you a lot."

Superintendent Russell Gibson told Breakfast people should not go out unless they have to, while the MetService warned the "very windy conditions" could make driving difficult, particularly for people on motorcycles.

Gibson said all of his staff are wearing masks and goggles to protect against the wind.

The threat of high winds and tinder-dry conditions prompted a total open air fire ban to be issued in Canterbury yesterday. Many of the rural volunteer firefighters are tied up with work in the Christchurch CBD. 

The 48-hour ban was issued at midday. A high of 27 degrees Celsius is expected today in Christchurch.

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