NZ's quake-hit cathedral to be partly torn down

October 27, 2011 - 11:35 PM
New Zealand

FILE - In this Feb. 26, 2011 file photo, a relief worker walks past the earthquake-damaged Christchurch Cathedral in Christchurch, New Zealand. The iconic downtown cathedral in central Christchurch will be deconsecrated and partially demolished due to earthquake damage earlier this year. The safety measure will allow authorities to decide whether to retain any portion of the city's most well-known building. (AP Photo/Mark Baker, File)

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — The iconic cathedral in downtown Christchurch will be deconsecrated and partially demolished due to earthquake damage sustained earlier this year, officials said Friday.

The safety measure will allow authorities to decide whether to retain any portion of the city's most well-known building, which was seriously damaged by a strong earthquake in February. The Anglican church said it plans to construct a new cathedral that incorporates parts of the old one.

In the next few months, crews will begin the painstaking task of taking down unstable parts of the building while trying to save artifacts and shore up more stable parts of the structure, a church statement said. Crews will assess how much — if any — of the building can be saved as they proceed, a church spokeswoman said.

The Anglican church's beauty, central location and climbable spire made it a popular tourist draw before the magnitude-6.1 earthquake struck in February, killing 182 people and destroying much of Christchurch's downtown area. In an enduring image, the quake toppled the cathedral's spire. Nobody died in that collapse.

The partial demolition and strengthening will cost 4 million New Zealand dollars ($3.2 million) and will allow artifacts to be saved, Church and government authorities said.