Battered Christchurch cathedral damaged by new earthquakes

Officials survey damage after the Feb. 22 earthquake in Christchurch
Officials survey damage after the Feb. 22 earthquake in Christchurch

.- The already damaged cathedral in Christchurch, New Zealand was hit again by new wave of earthquakes that struck the country this week.

Bishop of Christchurch Barry Jones expressed sadness over the further destruction to the local Blessed Sacrament Cathedral, but said he was grateful that “no lives were lost” after two major earthquakes rocked the city on June 13.

The management at Blessed Sacrament Cathedral said the building “ sustained substantial damage” in the recent disaster. The cathedral had been closed since September of last year when a non-fatal temblor caused damage to the church.

This year's Feb. 22 earthquake  – which killed over 180 people and has been described as New Zealand's worst natural disaster in history –  shattered the cathedral's stained glass, destroyed its bell towers and shook the foundations.

Lance Ryan, head of the church's management board, explained that the new damage from this week's earthquakes involved the concrete floors on the outside of the church collapsing on to the floor below, damaging the north and south arches that help support the dome.

Ryan said that engineers are attempting to carry out a full inspection of the cathedral. Although they were initially able to fly a small drone into the building's interior to survey the damage, aftershocks have now put the project on hold.

“It will be several days before we are in a position to comment on the future of the building,” he said.

“These aftershocks are quite devastating as we were making such good progress in preparing the dome so that it could be lifted off in a couple of weeks,” Ryan said. But all of “this work is now on hold,” he added.

Bishop Jones told the cathedral’s parishioners in a June 15 statement that the local community is need of God's peace “as we come to terms with two more major earthquakes and the stress and uncertainty they have brought into our lives.”

“I keep our Diocese and its people very much in my prayers and am greatly reassured by the promise of prayers for us all from people living in other parts of New Zealand,” he said.

“The people of the Church have shown huge support for and solidarity with us and we need to be grateful and include them in our prayers.”  

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