Kurt Bayer is a Herald reporter based in Christchurch

Inside the quake-hit Grand Chancellor

The partly demolished carpark frames the Hotel Grand Chancellor. Photo / The Press
The partly demolished carpark frames the Hotel Grand Chancellor. Photo / The Press

The shattered and bent insides of the earthquake-crippled Hotel Grand Chancellor, earmarked for demolition, have been revealed.

Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (Cera) engineers took two cameramen wearing hard-hats, protective glasses and high-vis vests into the devastated 26-storey tower - one of the tallest buildings in Christchurch - in a steel cage this week.

The 16-year-old hotel suffered significant structural damage in the February 22 earthquake and has become a symbol of the city's devastated CBD.

It has been on a noticeable lean since the 6.3-magnitude quake and there have been fears it could collapse during an aftershock.

Yesterday Cera revealed that the building will be brought down floor by floor, starting next week in what experts have described as one of the most complex demolitions attempted in this country.

Fletcher Construction has secured the demolition contract.

Yesterday, media were given the opportunity to enter the stricken building to take pictures and video.

They were shocked with what they saw, according to Cera engineer Carl Devereux, who led the dangerous expedition.

He said: "I've seen it so many times so it's nothing new for me, so it was interesting to see the shock and the reactions at the extent of the damage with those guys who came up.

"We went up in the personnel hoist, which runs up the side of the building. They found it pretty eerie.

"The most striking part for them was seeing inside some of the high-level guest rooms, which have been left as-is.

"You can see the muffin on the table, the full cups of tea, unmade beds, and you can see how frightening it must have been for those people and what they would've ridden through.

"Damage-wise, the most visible is the extent of the shoring and propping especially in the front foyer."

The photographers snapped stunning images that will shock many Cantabrians.

Stark images of collapsed main walls and stairways, shattered and split concrete floors, bent iron beams, and crude reinforcements can be shown for the first time.

Mike Fitzgerald of TVNZ shot footage inside the building.

The experienced cameraman was humbled and shocked by what he saw.

He said: "As we went up the building, you could see the massive impact of the quake on the building, it was huge. We went up to the top, but on the way down we stopped at the 19th floor, which is a floor they've left pretty much as it was on the day.

"In one of the rooms, there was a newspaper from February 22, toothbrush in the bathroom.

"The shots I got inside there were just frightening.

"It was very sobering to go into a room and see the internal structure completely ripped apart. It made you think, you wouldn't have wanted to have been that person in that room.

"I wondered how I would react and I said to the Cera boys up there, it would just scar you for life.

"You would never want to go back up into a high-rise building ever again.

"It was bloody awful up in that area and very eerie.

"But in the other areas, down in the lower floors, it felt like any other area of the red zone which we have spent months going around."


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