Red zone opened for business owners

5:50 pm on 28 March 2011

Owners of businesses in one of the worst-hit parts of Christchurch have been allowed into their buildings for the first time.

The cordoned red zone is the area in the central business district most badly affected by the 6.3-magnitude quake on 22 February.

Business people were taken into the area by bus and were nervous about what awaited them, but relieved finally to have the opportunity to retrieve items needed to set up elsewhere.

The owners of 16 businesses on New Regent St were each given two wheelie bins and one hour to gather as many items as possible on Monday morning.

They were taken in on a bus with police escorts and helped by locksmiths, builders and search and rescue workers.

Some were shocked by the damage, but most were relieved they were able to retrieve some of their more valuable items. Cafe owner Andreas Sesun says it was a relief to recover his most important items.

Another business owner, Sonya Smith, says her clothing design business looked as though it had been put in a blender. She says the windows had blown out and all the historic tiles had been blown across the street.

The Canterbury Business Recovery Group acknowledged one hour was not much time and they hoped to let business owners in for longer periods once the area was made safer.

Another 16 business owners on New Regent St were to be escorted to their premises on Monday afternoon.

Civil Defence National Controller Steve Brazier says it is working to reduce the cordon size of the red zone.