New Zealand police investigate quake building failure

New Zealand police said Tuesday they will proceed with a criminal investigation into the catastrophic collapse of an office block in the 2011 Christchurch earthquake which claimed 115 lives.

AFP| Updated: Sep 02, 2014, 13:38 PM IST

Wellington: New Zealand police said Tuesday they will proceed with a criminal investigation into the catastrophic collapse of an office block in the 2011 Christchurch earthquake which claimed 115 lives.

The CTV building crumpled then burst into flames after the 6.3-magnitude tremor on February 22, 2011, killing those trapped inside, including 65 foreign students mainly from Japan and China.

A Royal Commission concluded in 2012 that the six-storey 1980s-era office block was so badly designed it should never have received a building permit.

Designed by an engineer with no experience of multi-storey structures, its steelwork was not constructed properly and the local council failed to pick up on the problems.

As a result, the building "pancaked" within 20 seconds of the tremor hitting, accounting for almost two-thirds of the 185 deaths in New Zealand`s worst quake for 80 years.

Since the commission`s report, police have been assessing evidence to weigh up if a criminal investigation was warranted.

They said Tuesday that a criminal probe would proceed, with manslaughter charges a possibility against those responsible for the structure.

"Bearing in mind that 115 people died, (manslaughter) is the principal charge we`re focusing on," Detective Superintendent Peter Read told reporters. "It`s got to be supported by the facts and we`re still a long way from that yet."

Police said it was too early to say when the investigation would be completed.