Christchurch's eastern suburbs 'neglected' - Brownlee

By Hayden Donnell

Volunteers work to remove silt and sludge caused by liquefaction in the stricken Christchurch suburb of Bexley. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Volunteers work to remove silt and sludge caused by liquefaction in the stricken Christchurch suburb of Bexley. Photo / Mark Mitchell

As the Christchurch earthquake death toll hits 161, earthquake recovery minister Gerry Brownlee has admitted the city's eastern suburbs have been neglected.

The names of two more earthquake victims were released by police this morning. They are Ofer Levy, 22, and Gabi Moshe Ingel, 23, both of Israel.

The men were seen checking out of a hostel in Manchester St 15 minutes before the quake.

A further seven bodies have been identified and will be named in the next 48 hours after families have been informed, police said.

Badly damaged areas

Brownlee has received a "confluence" of information showing some residents have been left in badly damaged areas without easy access to portaloos, clean water or other services for more than a week.

A spokesman said Mr Brownlee would be working with Civil Defence today to give relief to those in need.

He had visited the eastern suburbs many times in the last days - most recently this morning - and made observations on what was required.

His commitment comes after criticism of the earthquake response in eastern suburbs yesterday.

Civil Defence national controller John Hamilton said everything possible was being done to help the residents in the eastern suburbs of Christchurch, but his workers had been prioritising the most earthquake-damaged areas.

He asked for understanding from residents of some less badly hit areas that were not receiving the same amount of aid.

"It is a huge task."

Eighty six portaloos are going into Avonside and Dallington today and 120 more will be arriving on Friday. A shipment of 1200 portaloos is due by the weekend.

Generators that can service 200 houses at a time are being brought in to reconnect power in residential houses, he said.

There are now 200 building evaluation teams, 400 welfare staff and 50 search and rescue staff visiting homes in the area, he said.

He acknowledged the last nine days had been extremely difficult for residents, but said Civil Defence was working as quickly as it could.

"Many residents are without electricity, water or access to toilets. Transport is also difficult because of the damage done to roads. At the same time we are also dealing with an unprecedented urban search and rescue operation in the central city."

Undertaking building evaluations and providing portaloos and chemical toilets was the priority for Civil Defence teams, Mr Hamilton said.

Building evaluation inspectors will have finished assessing all priority areas in the Eastern Suburbs by the end of Saturday, he said.

Only red stickers, which indicate a property is heavily damaged and unsafe, are being issued.

Refugee city

Blogger Peter Hyde, who lives in the south-east of Christchurch, said he was living in "refugee city".

It was populated by 50,000 to 100,000 people who have been living on broken streets with little access to power, water, gas and other services, he said.

"Their houses may or may not be intact. Their streets may be clear, broken, or full of silt. Or sewage. There are no showers. Or ways to wash clothes. Or to wash dishes. Or to heat the "must boil" water that is available - assuming they can make it to the nearest water truck, day after day. No refrigeration. No working toilets, and precious few portaloos. No face masks to defend against the blown silt.

"They have no internet either, and usually no phones. And their radio batteries are dead or dying."

The official response had not been enough to contain the growing crisis, Mr Hyde said.

He called on people from less damaged suburbs to find residents of areas there is still no power or water and donate batteries, clean drinking water, face masks, hand sanitiser and other vital items

"Rinse and repeat. Until all these suburbs have (especially) power and reliable transport, the need will not go away."

An update from Orion showed power had been restored to 87 per cent of Christchurch yesterday.

Water was back on in 67 per cent of the city, Civil Defence reported.

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