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New Zealand says no charges over killer quake building
by Staff Writers
Wellington (AFP) Nov 30, 2017

New Zealand police on Thursday ruled out laying criminal charges over the catastrophic collapse of a office block that claimed 115 lives in the 2011 Christchurch earthquake.

The CTV building crumpled then burst into flames after the 6.3-magnitude tremor on February 22, 2011, killing those trapped inside, including 65 foreign students mainly from Japan and China.

After a four-year investigation, police said they did not have enough evidence to proceed with negligent manslaughter charges against the engineers responsible for the building.

"The evidence available is not sufficient to provide a reasonable prospect of conviction in court," police said in a statement.

The building's collapse accounted for almost two thirds of the 185 deaths in New Zealand's worst quake for 80 years, which flattened the downtown area of the South Island's largest city.

A royal commission concluded in 2012 that the six-storey, 1980s-era office block was so badly designed it should never have received a building permit.

It had also been damaged in two quakes which preceded the deadly February tremor, something the local council failed to pick up, allowing it to remain occupied.

The building "pancaked" within 20 seconds of the quake hitting and was engulfed in an inferno so intense that forensic experts had to use DNA testing to identify the remains of many victims.

Police said the investigation raised issues that were "delicate and finely balanced" but ultimately the evidence was not strong enough to take to court.

Detective Superintendent Peter Read said he was aware the families of victims would be disappointed.

"If I'd taken my heart's advice, we would have prosecuted but I can't take my heart's advice, I have to use my head," he told reporters.

"We've done everything that we possibly could to achieve a prosecution outcome for them (the families). If the evidence isn't there, we're not going to manufacture it, we have to deal with the facts we're presented with."

Justice Minister Andrew Little said the government would consider introducing a charge of corporate manslaughter to ensure those responsible for such tragedies were held accountable.

"Another disaster that seems to have been avoidable -- everybody involved in it has walked away scot-free," he told Radio New Zealand.

"That's not right and I think we do have to do better."

Iran earthquake death toll rises to 483
Tehran (AFP) Nov 26, 2017
The number of dead in a major earthquake that hit Iran's western province of Kermanshah this month has risen to 483, official news agency IRNA said. The rise from a previous toll of 436 reported last week came after some people died from their injuries and authorities identified several dead who were buried in haste, IRNA and other Iranian media outlets said. The 7.3-magnitude quake stru ... read more

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