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131-year-old New Zealand church to be demolished

A 131-year-old cathedral, devastated in the earthquake last year in Christchurch, New Zealand, is too dangerous and expensive to rebuild, the city's bishop said on Friday.

By Gyles BeckfordReuters / March 2, 2012

A relief worker walks past the partially destroyed Christchurch Cathedral in Christchurch, New Zealand, in this February 2011 file photo. New Zealand's Anglican church is to demolish the 131-year-old cathedral in earthquake-devastated Christchurch because it is too dangerous and expensive to rebuild, the stricken city's bishop said on March 2, 2012.

Mark Baker/AP/File

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Wellington, New Zealand

New Zealand's Anglican church is to demolish a 131-year-old cathedral in earthquake-devastated Christchurch because it is too dangerous and expensive to rebuild, the stricken city's bishop said on Friday.

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The Victorian-era, Gothic-style cathedral, which dominated the city's central square, was badly damaged in the February 2011 quake. The 6.3 magnitude quake killed 185 people and destroyed large areas of the business centre and more than 6,000 homes.

The landmark cathedral was a favorite meeting place and tourist attraction, but any chance of saving it was ended by several strong aftershocks that caused more damage.

"The decision we have made has been made with prayer, with great deliberation, and an utmost concern for safety," Bishop Victoria Matthews told reporters.

She said the cathedral would be demolished gradually and carefully to a height of two or three metres to salvage historic features.

"There will be no bulldozers, there will be no wrecking balls, this will be done with deep love and respect for a building that has served us so well," Matthews said.

New Zealand faces a NZ$20 billion ($16.5 billion) bill to rebuild its second largest city, the centre of which remains off limits a year after the quake. Whole blocks have been reduced to bare land.

However, thousands of tremors, some with magnitudes of up to 6, have delayed any concerted rebuilding.

Large areas of some suburbs have been hit by liquefaction -- slushy silt forced up through streets -- and are still being assessed to determine whether they are habitable.

Christchurch mayor Bob Parker said the decision to demolish the cathedral was "heartbreaking".

"It is not an easy decision for many of us to accept," he said.

Christchurch was known as the Garden City because of its colourful gardens and parks and English-style stone buildings. It was also popular with honeymooners and overseas tourists as a gateway to New Zealand's sectacularly beautiful South Island.

( Editing by Paul Tait)

IN PHOTOS New Zealand quake

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