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June 24, 2017

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NZ offers to pay people to leave quake-hit homes

WELLINGTON, New Zealand -- New Zealand's government said Thursday that it will offer to pay thousands of homeowners to leave areas of the country's second-largest city that were hardest hit by recent earthquakes.

Christchurch was struck by a magnitude-7.1 earthquake in September and a devastating magnitude-6.3 quake in February that killed 181 people and crippled much of the city.

The government said that, over the coming weeks, it will offer to pay about 5,000 Christchurch homeowners to leave and have their homes razed, with certain swaths of land remaining too unstable for rebuilding. The future of an additional 10,000 homes, many of which may also need to be destroyed, is still being assessed.

The government estimated the cost of moving the first 5,000 homeowners at up to US$500 million, even after insurance clawbacks.

Prime Minister John Key said the total cost of the earthquakes amounted to more than US$15 billion — about 8 percent of the country's annual economy.

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