Around 100 jobs are at stake after a large fire engulfed a factory in Kaiapoi north of Christchurch on Sunday morning.
The Sutton Tools fire also created an environmental headache after an unknown amount of toxic fluid entered the River Cam.
Glenn Morgan, Operations Manager of Sutton Tools NZ Kaiapoi, said Things some areas of the site would still be operational.
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He said around 80 staff worked at the plant and another 20 were employed locally as administrators and sales representatives.
Morgan said it was “too early to tell” what their future would be.
“We are owned by an Australian company that likes to manufacture in New Zealand. They are very good employees. »
Morgan said he would know more once he spoke to the company’s chief executive on Sunday afternoon.
He did not yet know how the fire had started.
Environment Canterbury (ECan) was on hand to undertake a clean-up operation after the fire caused toxic fluid to enter the nearby river.
The product, called a quenching fluid, is an oil designed for the rapid or controlled cooling of steel or other materials in the quenching process.
It entered the river via a stormwater system and caused obvious oiling of the Walker Street Bridge downstream from the mouth of the Waimakairi River.
ECan staff managed to collect and remove some of the liquid, but some escaped and flowed with the ebb tide towards the mouth of the river.
An ECan spokesperson said staff were continuing to assess the situation and the public had been asked to avoid the area.
Terrified people who live near the Kaiapoi plant earlier described hearing “huge explosions” before their power went out.
David Miller lives 100 yards from the Sutton Tools factory on Sims Rd and had a front row seat to nighttime hell.
“She was massive,” he said Sunday morning.
Miller described the chaotic scene when emergency services were called to the site at 12:30 a.m. Sunday, saying there were “huge” explosions which he said could have been caused by exploding bottles of gas.
An explosion was so powerful that he felt a burst of heat hit him.
Miller said he was not among 40 homes that were evacuated because of the toxic fumes, due to a north wind blowing the smoke in a different direction.
“We were lucky.”
He said he believed a night shift might be working at the time. The company later confirmed that the night shift ended at 11:45 p.m. just before the fire broke out.
No one was injured in the fire.
Another resident said she woke up at 1:20 a.m. when she saw flashing lights. In a social media post, the women said there was a lot of crackling before a “big bang” when her electricity went out.
An hour later, the police knocked on the door and told him that everyone in the area had to evacuate until morning because of the risk of toxic fumes. The flames were getting “very close” to where dangerous chemicals were kept, he was told.
The woman said it was “very sad” for Kaiapoi.
Up to 40 homes were evacuated to Kaiapoi North School after emergency services were called to Dale St, and three crews remained on Sunday morning.
A person who lives directly opposite the factory said he was told to stay inside his house because the asbestos was burning.
The woman said the fire started at the rear of the building before moving forward. By morning, the building had been completely emptied, she said.
Eight fire crews initially responded, but this was reduced as the fire was brought under control.
Shocked employees watched their workplaces burn and local residents took to social media to express their grief that the ‘iconic’ business suffered such extensive damage.
One employee said it was the best place she had ever worked.
“We are all crying and in shock.”
She said most of the people who had worked there, met their spouses, retired and now have their children worked at the factory.
“I am in tears.”
A number of staff were still at the site on Sunday morning – many looked visibly moved.
Waimakariri District Mayor Dan Gordon said the fire was devastating news for Kaiapoi.
Gordon said his thoughts and those of the Council were with the 100 employees and said he had contacted the plant manager to offer the Council’s support.
“Sutton Tools has been around for 60 years in our community and has employed many generations of local families over the years. They are a popular business in Kaiapoi and the Waimakariri district.
Gordon recognized the fire crews who worked hard to bring the blaze under control and praised the council’s civil defense team for an outstanding job in deploying and setting up an evacuation centre.
Waimakariri MP Matt Doocey said Sutton Tools was a proud local employer in Kaiapoi.
“Today’s news will be a severe blow to many families who suffered during the devastation of the city during the earthquakes.”
Doocey said he will work with affected employees to ensure they have access to any help they may need and will meet with the company later this week to help get the company back on track. market.
A spokesperson for Fire and Emergency NZ said the cause of the fire was not yet known and fire investigators would be present on Sunday morning.
Power was restored to the area around 4:30 a.m.
Sutton Tools have been manufacturing drill bits for over 50 years at their factory in Canterbury and were the only drill bit manufacturer in New Zealand. They have been operating in Kaiapoi since 1962 and were previously known as Patience and Nicholson.