Demand for red zone tours 'overwhelm'
More than 1200 people have booked seats for a bus tour of Christchurch's red zone.
Public demand this morning was so huge Cera's phone booking system crashed under the load.
Cera chief Roger Sutton said the 10 people answering calls had been "overwhelmed" by the public response.
Despite many callers struggling to get through to the dedicated line an average of one seat was booked every 25 seconds with 361 seats taken by 10.30am.
Cera is asking for a gold coin donation for each ticket to help offset the $200,000 cost of organising the tours.
Sutton said initially visitors would not be allowed to leave the buses during the tour but that could change.
About 2500 people could be taken through the red zone on each weekend with seats still available for the first tours starting on Saturday.
Sutton said the tours followed soon after the opening of the City Mall last weekend.
"We are starting to really get our city back again," he said.
However, he warned the red zone tours would be a sobering contrast to the new "bright and sparkly City Mall".
"Some people are going to find it difficult. Some people are going to find it hard."
The buses will drive along the devastated Colombo St and come within 50 metres of the faltering Grand Chancellor building.
They will also stop in Cathedral Square.
"I think this is really important for the grieving process... There is a balance between safety and respecting the needs of the community," Sutton said.
The first bus leaves this Saturday and the tours will run until December 11. On Saturdays they operate from 2pm to 6pm and on Sundays from 10am to 6pm.
Bookings are taken from Monday to Friday, 8am to 5pm, on 0800 RING CERA (7464 2372).