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Quake-hit N.Z. city unveils plans for low-rise future
by Staff Writers
Wellington (AFP) Aug 11, 2011

The earthquake-devastated New Zealand city of Christchurch announced plans Thursday to rebuild its downtown area as a low-rise precinct dominated by parkland.

Much of the central city remains cordoned off after the 6.3-magnitude earthquake that killed 181 people in February, with the danger of falling debris from damaged buildings making it unsafe for the public to enter.

Christchurch Council unveiled a NZ$2 billion ($1.6 billion) draft plan Thursday to rebuild the shattered city's heart over the next 20 years, including a memorial to earthquake victims.

"It's a safe, sustainable, green, hi-tech, low-rise city in a garden," Christchurch mayor Bob Parker told reporters.

Under the plan, buildings would be restricted to a maximum of seven storeys and constructed to rigorous standards to avoid the carnage seen in February, when collapsed office blocks accounted for most of the quake's fatalities.

"We have to build a safe city technically but it also has to feel safe for our community -- low rise is what people want," Parker said.

The city's 130-year-old Anglican cathedral, which lost its spire in the quake, would be rebuilt as the focus of Christchurch, while some other ruined buildings would be left untouched as reminders of the tragedy.

A memorial area to earthquake victims capable of holding large gatherings is also planned at a site yet to be determined.

"(It will be) a space rather than an object -- a place visitors can enter into and experience an emotional response, rather than simply look at an object," the draft plan said.

It calls for extensive parkland on the banks of the Avon river that runs through the city and proposes a light rail system linking the downtown area to the suburbs.

There would also be sporting facilities, including an aquatic centre, as well as convention facilities, a library and a redeveloped hospital.

Parker said the council formulated the plan after receiving more than 100,000 suggestions from residents and it would seek public feedback in the coming months.

"It's not the end of the job by any means, it's a really strong starting point," he said.

The city centre was the worst-hit area in the quake but there was also extensive damage in the suburbs and the overall damage bill is estimated at NZ$15 billion.

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Asia's giants highly exposed to natural disasters - survey
Paris (AFP) Aug 10, 2011
The United States and Japan have the highest bills to pay from natural disasters, but Asia's emerging giants - China, India and Indonesia - are proportionately at greater risk from them, a survey said on Thursday. British risk assessors Maplecroft ranked 196 countries according to their economic exposure to earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanoes, landslides, floods, storms and wildfires. Fou ... read more

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