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Sunday, March 20, 2011

Ways to raze hotel considered

Ways to raze hotel considered

Last updated 05:00 21/03/2011
The Grand Chancellor Hotel is likely to be demolished floor by floor, with more work today to stabilise the quake-damaged 27-storey hotel.

Yesterday, the media were granted a tour of some of the most badly hit city streets, with reporters allowed to walk down Hereford St on to Manchester St to view the extensive damage.

Urban Search and Rescue engineer Carl Devereux, who led the tour, said workers would be placing "steel jackets" around columns on the higher storeys of the Grand Chancellor today.

The work was being done to further stabilise the building, which remains on a visible lean with part of it slumping downwards.

Devereux said the structure was likely to be taken down floor by floor to protect undamaged buildings in the area nearby.

"It's a work in progress and it is going to take a while," he said.

Overseas experts, including American and German demolition crews, were being consulted.

The buildings on Hereford St between Latimer Square and Manchester St were badly hit by last month's earthquake.

Devereux said all buildings were given a red, yellow or green sticker after an initial appraisal by engineers walking along the streets. The buildings were now being assessed more thoroughly. About half of those "level-two" checks have been completed.

Devereux also explained how Avonmore House, "a classic early-century unreinforced masonry building" on Latimer Square, was being used as an "indicator building" to allow engineers to assess the effects of aftershocks.

There were eight indicator buildings in the city – "a couple of masonry buildings, a couple of concrete buildings and some steel buildings".

"Every time we get a decent aftershock we come down and take a close look at this building. We're measuring the cracks, taking photographs, and seeing how much more damage has been caused."

Devereux said business owners would have to wait to get into the city centre, given the scale of the damage.

"I'd say be patient. It's work in progress. We've been cleaning up a lot of these hazards as quickly as we can."

He said Usar teams had taken care of property in the city centre.

"It's all a balancing act. When we were in the search and rescue stage, we were prepared to take high risks because we were recovering people, but now we're not prepared to take these same risks."

Civil Defence national controller John Hamilton said parts of the city centre were not yet suitable for the public.

"I appreciate their [business owners'] requirements to get in and get material and get their business running, but there's no point in trying to push it against the odds," Hamilton said.

"We'll do all we can to give people access, but it's going to be a very slow process."

Hamilton said some business owners should be able to access the red zone by Thursday.

"It won't be in great droves of people. It'll be building by building, site by site, so we can plan the way in and way out."

But he insisted the focus had changed.

"We think we've done the bulk of the dismantling and deconstruction, so now we're going to focus on trying to help businesses as much as we can.

"There's no urgency in demolishing buildings."

- The Press

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