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Quake-weary Christchurch residents ponder leaving
by Staff Writers
Christchurch, New Zealand (AFP) June 15, 2011

Japan eyes $25 bn second reconstruction budget
Tokyo (AFP) June 15, 2011 - The second extra budget that Japan is set to compile to cover costs to rebuild the region devastated by the March quake and tsunami will be around $25 billion, media reports said Wednesday.

Katsuya Okada, secretary general of the ruling Democratic Party of Japan, was quoted by Jiji Press as saying the size of the extra budget is expected to be some 2 trillion yen.

Okada made the remark during a meeting with his counterparts from opposition parties, Jiji Press and Kyodo reported.

Kan instructed his cabinet ministers on Tuesday to compile the second extra budget for the current fiscal year to March 2012.

Japan's parliament in May passed an emergency 4.015 trillion yen relief budget to help restoration work such as clearing massive amounts of rubble and building temporary housing for the thousands of people who lost their homes.

The 9.0-magnitude earthquake and tsunami on March 11 left more than 23,000 dead or missing and crippled the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, which has been releasing radioactive materials into the environment.

Simon Bourke moved into his dream house in New Zealand's Christchurch four years ago, but now says: "I'll sell it to you for a dollar, and chuck in the wife as well.

"I just want to get out".

Bourke's cheeky quip about his wife earns him a shove in the shoulder from a female friend standing nearby but, like many in this quake-scarred city, he is serious about wanting to leave following another powerful tremor this week.

Monday's 6.0-magnitude shake was the third major quake in Christchurch in the past nine months, including a devastating 6.3 temblor last February that killed 181 people.

The latest quake left huge mounds of silt and mud up to two metres (six foot) high dotting Bourke's street in the suburb of Parklands, created when the force of the seismic pounding broke the bonds that hold soil together.

Prime Minister John Key this week said the process, known as liquefaction, meant thousands of homes in New Zealand's second-largest city would have to be abandoned because the ground was now too unstable to rebuild.

"You could see all this stuff bubbling out of the ground, it was much worse than February," Bourke's wife told AFP.

It was a bitter blow for the couple, who had to abandon their house for three weeks after the February disaster because its foundations had been undermined.

"I'd never even heard of liquefaction before September," Simon Bourke said, referring to the first 7.0 quake in Christchurch last year.

"Now here we are again."

Combined with the threat of constant aftershocks -- a shallow 5.0 shake early Wednesday jolted residents awake but caused no further damage -- the latest liquefaction setback has steeled the couple's resolve to leave.

Simon found himself thigh-deep in ooze when he fell into a sinkhole while inspecting damage from Monday's quake and, though he was unharmed, Anna said it was the final straw.

"If it was deeper he could have disappeared over his head," she said, as construction diggers worked on the street to clear the mess.

"It's hard when you've got kids, you've got to think of your family. No one can guarantee this won't happen again."

The couple's neighbour Chris Innes was preparing to move back into his house on Saturday after extensive repairs following February's quake.

Instead, he found himself shovelling silt from his pathway next to a sinkhole that swallowed his front garden.

"The whole place will have to come down now," he said. "The house itself fared quite well but the land it's built on is stuffed."

Innes said he would like to move away but can't because he is still paying a mortgage on his ruined property.

"That's it," Bourke chipped in. "If you move away you chuck away your whole financial future."

In the city's port area of Lyttelton, a woman named Marie, who declined to give her surname, said she was staying put.

"My lifestyle is here," she told AFP as clouds of dust from silt that had dried in the sun rolled over the town.

"Anyway, who'd buy your house now? Who's going to buy a house in a place that's shaking to bits?"

Lyttelton was among the worst hit areas in Monday's quake, with the historic 134-year-old Timeball Station -- which used to indicate the time to ships -- reduced to rubble.

Even the dead cannot rest in peace amid the area's constant seismic rumblings, with Lyttelton's graveyard closed and a large sign erected among its toppled stone memorials warning "dangerous headstones".

However, Henry, a demolition worker who was helping remove debris at the Timeball Station, said Christchurch would prove resilient.

"Never mind, we'll tear it down and reconstruct it," he said, gesturing to the ruins.

"Reconstruct, reconstruct, reconstruct, that's what we'll do."

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Quake-hit N.Z. cathedrals face wrecking ball
Wellington (AFP) June 16, 2011 - Christchurch's Anglican and Catholic cathedrals may have to be demolished after sustaining further damage in the latest earthquake to rock the New Zealand city, church officials said Thursday.

The 130-year-old Anglican cathedral's huge stained glass Rose Window shattered in a 6.0-tremor that struck Monday, compounding damage from a 6.3-magnitude quake in February that killed 181 people and toppled its spire.

Bishop Victoria Williams said the cathedral, a symbol of the South Island city, was structurally compromised when its western wall toppled Monday and the entire building may need to be demolished.

"We know some of it will have to come down because of the damage, but whether we have to take the whole thing down is still a live question," she told the Christchurch Press.

The cathedral lies in the city centre "red zone", the worst-hit area during the quakes in February and this week, which remains off-limits to the public because the risk of falling masonry makes it too dangerous to enter.

The area has been rattled by three major earthquakes in nine months and there have been calls after the latest scare to move the whole downtown area to more stable land to the west of the existing central business district.

Christchurch's Anglican dean, Peter Beck, said if the city centre was shifted, the cathedral was likely to be rebuilt on a new site.

"We would like the cathedral to be in the city centre, where it always has been," he told The Press.

"If the city moves west, then the cathedral needs to be at the heart of the city. The cathedral... has been in the heart of our city almost from the beginning."

The 1905 Catholic Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament was also facing demolition after arches supporting its surviving copper-clad dome were undermined in Monday's tremor, the building's management board said.

The dome was one of a pair that crowned the renaissance-style building before the other collapsed in February disaster.

"(The damage) would have to be described as severe, it's suffered another good shake," management board chairman Lance Ryan told Radio New Zealand.

He said engineers were assessing the building and it would be a month before its fate was known.

An 88-year-old man who fell over in his nursing home was the only fatality from Monday's 6.0 quake, which came about 80 minutes after another powerful jolt measuring 5.2.

Aftershocks of up to 3.8 continued Thursday but there were no reports of further damage.

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Japan eyes $25 bn second reconstruction budget
Tokyo (AFP) June 15, 2011
The second extra budget that Japan is set to compile to cover costs to rebuild the region devastated by the March quake and tsunami will be around $25 billion, media reports said Wednesday. Katsuya Okada, secretary general of the ruling Democratic Party of Japan, was quoted by Jiji Press as saying the size of the extra budget is expected to be some 2 trillion yen. Okada made the remark d ... read more

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