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Quake-Damaged 27-storey Hotel Grand Chancellor in Christchurch, New Zealand
 to Come Down as Launch to Recovery

By David Barber, dpa, BerlinMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News

May 25, 2011--WELLINGTON -- Plans to demolish a 27-storey hotel severely damaged in a magnitude-6.3 earthquake in Christchurch in February were announced Wednesday, launching the reconstruction of New Zealand's devastated second-largest city.

It is scheduled to take 10 months to a year to raze the Hotel Grand Chancellor to the ground in the largest demolition project ever carried out in New Zealand, cabinet minister Gerry Brownlee, who is in charge of the city's reconstruction, said.

The hotel, the city's tallest building and located in the heart of the central business district, was left leaning dangerously after the February 22 quake. A large surrounding area has been cordoned off ever since because of the risk of it collapsing.

The demolition was psychologically important and hugely symbolic to the people of Christchurch as it would signal that the recovery process is well underway, Brownlee told reporters.

"The sooner these buildings are down the faster we can move to reopen areas and get on with rebuilding and reopening the rest of the central city."

Brownlee said about 250 of 900 buildings in the city condemned as a result of the quake and an earlier magnitude-7.1 tremor on September 4 have already been demolished.

Christchurch was still shaking Wednesday, with two quakes of magnitude 3.3 and another of 4.1 recorded, all centred about 10 kilometres south of the city centre.

The Earthquake Commission, which provides compensation for quake damage, reported that it had received more than 344,000 claims resulting from the two quakes and associated aftershocks. Brownlee said it was by far the country's biggest natural disaster.


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Copyright (c) 2011, dpa, Berlin

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