Landmark building is demolished

Churchill House fell to the ground shortly after 1000 GMT

Hundreds of people have turned out to see a major Belfast landmark demolished in a massive city centre explosion.

The 19-storey Churchill House office block came down in seconds on Sunday to make way for a £300m retail and leisure complex.

Destruction of the building, which went up in the 1960s, had caused a few problems for the Yorkshire-based company carrying out the demolition.

Senior explosives expert Dick Green said that originally the building was just one metre from its neighbour.

Mr Green, from the Controlled Demolition Group, said: "Even with all our technical expertise, it is very difficult to drop 10,000 tonnes of rubble without some of it going backwards."

His company has demolished bigger buildings, but few have been taken down in such a tight space.

Mr Green said: "There is about 90kg of explosives positioned throughout the building, which may sound a lot, but it is spread between 2,500 individual charges, so each charge is very small.

"When we first came on site, the building was situated about one metre from the next building. We have extended that gap to about 10 metres by taking some of the building down. "

Many parents brought their children along to the event.

The 19-storey Churchill House was in a tight city centre site

Churchill House fell to the ground shortly after 1000 GMT on Sunday.

The operation to remove hundreds of tonnes of rubble from the site began immediately after the demolition.

The engineers said they threw the building away from the ones they were trying to protect.

This was done by delaying the charges from one end to the other.

At one end they started with instantaneous charges and over two seconds delayed it through the building so it pulled the intended way.

The building, which has housed BT and government departments, was demolished to make way for the new Victoria Square shopping centre, due to open in 2007.

Large sections of the city centre were sealed off for the demolition.

As the building came down, technical project manager Jon Munce said: "We followed strict regulations when preparing for this historic day with the surrounding city centre area closed off to the public for a number of hours this morning."

Hundreds of people turned up to see the demolition

Paul Sargent, managing director of AM Developments ) said: "today's implosion symbolises a new beginning in Belfast. Victoria Square will be a flagship project, which will promote a new image of Belfast as a thriving, high-quality retailing centre."

Social Development Minister John Spellar, who was not present for the demolition, said the new development would revitalise the heart of the centre.

"Our vision is to strengthen Belfast as a premier regional shopping destination providing a high quality safe urban environment, attractive to investors, employees, residents and visitors," he said.

After the demolition, dozens of balloons were released into the air to celebrate the event.

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