New Zealand counts rebuilding costs after quakes

Friday, February 25, 2011

WELLINGTON - Rebuilding quake-ravaged Christchurch is set to cost more than $7 billion, the New Zealand government said Friday.

Tuesday’s 6.3-magnitude earthquake destroyed large parts of the city with 113 bodies so far pulled from the rubble.

Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee said the cost of rebuilding his home town after two major earthquakes in six months would exceed more than $7 billion.

“Making estimates is sort of interesting but not overly helpful in the overall scheme of things, but I would expect that this will go beyond 10 billion (New Zealand dollars), and the figure will be somewhat north of that,” Brownlee said at a press conference.

A 7.1-magnitude earthquake in September resulted in 181,000 claims to the state-owned disaster insurer the Earthquake Commission and at least another 130,000 claims are expected following the latest event.

Brownlee said he hoped it would be the biggest insurance event for 2011 as he did not wish any other country to suffer what Christchurch had been through.

The Christchurch Chamber of Commerce said Brownlee’s calculations were conservative, and said the costs would be more than $20 billion.

The police Friday afternoon said the number of bodies recovered was 113 and has so far released the names of six of them.

More than 200 people are feared dead as search and rescue teams continue to scour buildings.

“We are still hopeful there will still be people rescued but it is becoming unlikely,” Civil Defence Minister John Carter told media.

The latest person to be rescued alive from the rubble was Wednesday afternoon.

It is feared more than 100 people are dead inside the Canterbury Television building, most of these are staff and students from an English language school.

The bodies of around 20 people, mainly tourists, are currently being recovered from the ruins of the Christchurch Cathedral.

Among the missing and dead are people from China, Japan, Taiwan, Saudi Arabia, the Philippines, US, Britain and Australia.

Rain has been falling in Christchurch bringing colder and more uncomfortable weather as well as making weakened buildings even more unstable.

Eighty percent of Christchurch has no connection to the main water supply. Other infrastructure such as electricity, sewerage systems and gas supplies remained severely disrupted.

Roads and other infrastructure were seriously damaged with cracks, landslides and widespread liquefaction - where violent shaking caused by an earthquake causes the ground to behave like a liquid.

On Wednesday, the New Zealand government declared a national state of emergency for the first time in the country’s history.

It also announced Friday that the five-yearly census due to take place in early March had been cancelled.

Tuesday’s quake, which struck at 12:51 p.m. (2351 GMT Monday) when office buildings and streets were full of people, was centred much closer to the surface and nearer to the city than the 7.1-magnitude quake in September that caused widespread damage but no fatalities.

Filed under: Accidents and Disasters

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