BY JAMES WILKINSON
Guests and staff at hotels in Christchurch have been spared by yesterday’s 6.3-magnitude earthquake that destroyed a number of buildings in the city’s CBD and has so far claimed the lives of 75 people.
At Accor’s three properties in the CBD – Novotel Christchurch Cathedral Square, Ibis Christchurch and All Seasons Christchurch Cashel Street – all guests and staff were not injured in the earthquake, which struck at 12:51pm local time on February 22.
“Accor’s three city hotels remain evacuated, though fortunately no guests or staff were injured as a result of the earthquake,” said Accor’s General Manager of Communications, Peter Hook.
“Because two of the hotels are located on Cathedral Square (where the Christ Church Cathedral’s spire came crashing to the ground yesterday) and the area is currently in lock-down under a State of Emergency ruling, we are unsure when we will be able to enter the buildings and assess them.
“The early view was that while some surface cracking was evident we are hoping that the hotels have been spared structural damage, but with so much damage in the precinct around the hotels, we will not make any decision about re-opening until a complete examination and assessment of the buildings has been made,” he told HM.
Hook said the All Seasons on Papanui Road, on the fringe of the CBD, was the company’s temporary headquarters and “one of the wings is open and being used to house emergency staff”.
Buildings around the Novotel Christchurch Cathedral Square hotel were badly damaged, including Fairfax’s historic The Press building directly behind the hotel. Initial reports and images suggested the heritage wing of the Novotel had been badly damaged, but they were of the The Press and not the property.
According to Heritage Hotel Management’s Chief Operating Officer, Jeff Shearer, all guests and staff are safe at the company’s property in the city, Heritage Christchurch.
“Following the 6.3 magnitude earthquake that hit Christchurch yesterday, Heritage Christchurch staff and guests were evacuated,” he said.
“The CBD where Heritage Christchurch is situated is cordoned off for the next three days whilst city recovery personnel go about their urgent business (and) we will advise the status of our hotel after that time,” Shearer said.
All guests and staff are also safe at the three Millennium and Copthorne properties in the city, following initial reports that one of the company’s hotels had collapsed. However, Millennium and Copthorne Hotels New Zealand Managing Director B K Chiu told the New Zealand Herald that it was too early to know what the extent of the damage was.
The Copthorne Hotel has also become an Australian checkpoint in the city, with the property accommodating Australian residents who have nowhere to go or wish to report they are safe, according to Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd.
The two Best Western properties in Christchurch – Best Western Clyde on Riccarton Motel and the Best Western Camelot Motel – have also reported minor damage, with no injuries to staff or guests.
All 105 guests and nine staff at the Peppers Clearwater Resort were reported safe and the property received no structural damage.
The three InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) properties in Christchurch were also evacuated and according a statement released this afternoon (Feb 23), the company was working with local authorities to secure damage assessments on Crowne Plaza Christchurch, Holiday Inn City Centre Christchurch and Holiday Inn on Avon Christchurch.
“Access to hotels remains restricted, particularly the Crowne Plaza and Holiday Inn City Centre which are both within the cordoned zone of the CBD,” the company said.
“The IHG team on the ground is with guests of all three hotels. Our priority at this point is the safe relocation of our guests to other destinations in New Zealand and facilitating assistance from international consulates for those requiring repatriation overseas.”
As this story went to press, grave fears were being held for Christchurch’s largest building, the 26-storey Hotel Grand Chancellor, with reports the property had sunk by several metres over the last hour (1:14pm AEDST).
HM will provide updates as soon as they come to hand.