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Friday, March 4, 2011

Grim future for Christchurch's quake-ravaged heritage buildings

Grim future for Christchurch's quake-ravaged heritage buildings

Last updated 15:23 05/03/2011
 
An estimated 1000 Christchurch heritage buildings are a danger to people's lives and should mostly be demolished, Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee says.

Brownlee, at a media briefing held at the Art Gallery this afternoon, said only significant Christchurch heritage building such as the ChristChurch Cathedral, the Catholic Basilica, the Provincial Chambers and the Art Centre should be retained.

"While they are part of our past history, they have no place in our future history. As I've said repeatedly, heritage is both forward and back and from this point on, we decide what the heritage of this city will be.

"There will be a few others [kept], perhaps, but those would be the most iconic buildings that Christchurch residents would want to see rebuilt.

"They won't be put back the way they were. They will need to have a great deal of strengthening put into them and it will be quite a long consideration as to how those things might be done."

People have been barred from access to half of the city's heritage buildings after assessments by Civil Defence staff. Civil Defence national controller John Hamilton said earlier that 50 percent of the top level heritage building had been issued with red stickers.

VICTIMS TO BE NAMED

More names of Christchurch earthquake victims are expected to be released later today.
Superintendent Sam Hoyle said a further 38 bodies had been identified and the victims' families had been told.

The death toll was lifted by two to 165 today, but searchers have concluded that there are no bodies inside the collapsed ChristChurch Cathedral.

Previously it was reported that as many as 22 people may have been trapped in the church. A search of the rubble covered areas surrounding the cathedral would continue today.

TEARS OF JOY 

The Dean of ChristChurch Cathedral cried when he was told early today there were no bodies buried in the rubble of the church.

The Very Reverend Peter Beck got a telephone call about 1am from the head of the Urban Search and Rescue task force, Ralph Moore, who told him the shattered cathedral had been checked and rechecked and there were no bodies in the rubble.

"I was expecting to get a call from him saying they had found a body and I and my colleagues were going to go down and say prayers at the side of the body.

"But of course I got this other news and I just burst into tears. I was speechless, It was unbelievable."

Since the 6.3 magnitude earthquake on February 22, it had been reported that as many as 22 bodies could be were buried in the rubble of the 130-year-old cathedral. Beck said he had no idea where that figure came from.

"I have always said it seems too high and I have always had this sense within me that it was a lot fewer than that.

"Straight after the quake a young woman was in tears and I gave her a big hug. She was telling me that she had just rushed out of the tower just before the quake and there were people behind her.

"Then you get other anecdotal stories from people saying they saw people in the viewing platform so that is the kind of stuff that was going around. But where 22 came from I have no idea."

Beck said it was great news but he was also very conscious that a lot of people had lost loved ones.

ChristChurch Cathedral master of the bell ringers Mike Clayton said he was absolutely "tickled pink" by news there were no bodies in the cathedral rubble. "Everybody is absolutely relieved obviously."

TOLL RISES

Despite the good news out of the cathedral, the official quake toll rose overnight to 165 with the recovery of two further bodies from the destroyed CTV building.

It had been expected that the total toll would rise to over 200, but police say this number is "highly likely" to come down after the cathedral search.

Superintendent Sandra Manderson said this morning that the number of people thought to be missing would be revised.

"We have cleared the cathedral site and we found no bodies in the cathedral at all, so to us that's fantastic news," she told Radio New Zealand.

Police are now trying to establish where the estimate of 22 people trapped at the cathedral came from.

"I haven't been able to do that so far, but I'm hoping that the estimated death toll will come down," Manderson said.

"Initially we had hundreds of people on the list, so it will be really good if that does go down, and it's highly possible."

WEATHER UPDATE

Demolition and recovery work in Christchurch should not be hampered by the weather this week.

The long term forecast is for temperatures hovering around a high of 18 degrees and a low of 9 degrees.

And other than the occasional shower it should be fine with a cool southwesterly moving around to a northeasterly later in the week.

The forecast will be welcome news for the thousands of rescue workers still out on the city's quake-torn streets.  

RECOVERY CENTRES

Six recovery assistance centres will open in the hardest hit areas of quake-stricken Christchurch this morning, offering a range of services and information for people who need help.

Eventually there will be two more of the centres, which Social Development Minister Paula Bennett describes as "one stop" shops.

"These centres will provide a range of services to people in localised areas in Christchurch, particularly the Eastern Suburbs," she said.

Recovery assistance centres will provide face to face service and information from agencies like Work and Income, Housing New Zealand, Christchurch City Council, Red Cross and Salvation Army.

More non-government organisations will join these agencies over the coming days to ensure a wide range of services are available.

"People visiting a Recovery Assistance Centre will find they're essentially a one stop shop where people can sort out emergency payments, housing issues, get counselling or just have a cup of tea and a chat," Bennett said.

Most recovery assistance centres will be in the hardest hit suburbs in east Christchurch such as Aranui, Linwood, Dallington and New Brighton.

CORDON REDUCTION

The cordon blocking off central Christchurch after last week's destructive earthquake will be reduced tomorrow.

Civil Defence head John Hamilton said four green zones had been established at the edge of the cordon area and two of those would be open to the public at 2pm on Sunday.

Residents and business owners would be able to access the cordons from 8am to secure their properties, he said.

In the central city, search and rescue teams have made solid progress clearing the main buildings.

Deconstruction of the CTV buildings, where up to 100 people are believed to have been killed, should be completed in two or three days' time.

Richard Brewer, a spokesman for the Canterbury Employers' Chamber of Commerce, said the opening up of parts of the CBD represented a significant step forward.

''It will come as an absolutely huge relief for a lot of businesses, particularly if they can now get access to servers and other vital equipment for business,'' Brewer said.

Businesses in the so-called red-zone were still unable to access their properties because the area was judged too hazardous but the chamber was working hard with Civil Defence and other applicable agencies to make the area safe so businesses could get in there soon as possible.

DAY OF REMEMBRANCE

Mayor Bob Parker said he would like to hold a day of remembrance, and to open a safe walkway through the CBD for people to see the destruction.

"Perhaps it can start with a remembrance service in Hagley Park and a silent procession into the city as part of the grieving process.

"We need to have that opportunity to remember, to grieve not only for the people that we have lost, but also for those buildings that are part of the story of our lives."

- Stuff, with NZPA

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