No survivors in cathedral after earthquake - police

The ChristChurch Cathedral after Tuesday's earthquake. Photo / Sarah Ivey
The ChristChurch Cathedral after Tuesday's earthquake. Photo / Sarah Ivey

There is no possibility of survivors in the rubble of the Christchurch Cathedral, police said this afternoon.

Superintendent Dave Cliff said 16 to 22 people were presumed to have died in the cathedral, which was devastated in the 6.3 magnitude quake on Tuesday.

Mr Cliff said those people would be among the growing number of bodies being sent to the temporary morgue set up by emergency services.

Seventy-six people have now been confirmed dead and 238 remain missing. The names of the dead will begin to be released from 4pm today, police said.

Mr Cliff said the focus remained on finding survivors.

"This is very much an operation around rescue, it's looking for the living.

"If we find a body but we can't recover it quickly, we will carry on."

But Mr Cliff also dismissed reports of "signs of life" heard at other central city buildings this morning.

"Some of the information is rumour, speculation, not founded on fact."

Mr Cliff said the rescuers were using sonic equipment, dogs, and cameras in the quest to find more survivors. He asked aircraft to stay away from the CBD as the noise could interfere with the search.

More bodies found at CTV

Rescuers have found several more bodies at the collapsed CTV building today.

A large team of Japanese searchers earlier entered the site with dogs and several bodies have now been carried out of the rubble in body bags.

Australian search and rescue personnel had been using specialist listening equipment at the site this morning but said they had not heard any signs of life.

Queensland USR Deputy taskforce leader Peter Dawson said that his team had spent the morning at the site after reports a text message had been sent from it.

"We have not been able pick up any confirmation of anybody... at the moment." he said.

Rescuers last night returned to the site to sift through the rubble.
Police stressed the work was a recovery operation as more survivors were not expected, but said the teams always remained hopeful.

Recovery the focus at PGC

Meanwhile, search and rescue personnel at the Pyne Gould Corporation building have switched their focus from trying to find survivors to recovering the dead, the company says.

Chief Executive Jeff Greenslade said emergency services informed him of the change this morning.

Mr Greenslade said 10 Perpetual and four MARAC staff were believed to still be in the building.

"Our thoughts are with our missing colleagues and their families. We have been praying that those who are trapped will be safely found, and while we haven't given up all hope sadly the prognosis from the emergency services has worsened," he said.

Mr Greenslade said rescue teams had worked "tirelessly" since the quake in trying conditions.

"We have been alongside them hoping for some positive news regarding our friends and colleagues. This is a tragedy."

He said counselling services had been offered to all PGC staff.

No survivors at Holy Cross Chapel

Rescuers also found no survivors at the Holy Cross Chapel on Chancery Lane, where signs of life were reported this morning, the Fire Service said.

Two Australian search and rescue teams who were deployed to the building said they found no-one there. They told Newstalk ZB they had since been sent to the PGG building.

A Fire Service spokeswoman said search and rescue teams with dogs had done a full investigation and been unable to find any signs of life at two buildings on Chancery Lane and Gloucester St.

Police earlier said no more survivors had been pulled out of the rubble overnight, with the last person rescued alive at 3pm yesterday.

Coroner can cope with death toll

Contingency plans have been put in place to ensure the coronial system can cope "whatever the death toll" from Christchurch's devastating earthquake reaches, Chief Coroner Judge Neil MacLean said.

Mortuary facilities were in place at Christchurch Hospital and Burnham Military Camp and so far there was no need to transfer the bodies of earthquake victims out of the region, Judge MacLean said.

"I am confident that in this time of immense grief and sorrow we can cope with whatever the death toll reaches," he said.

"We are getting incredible support from police and other Government agencies, the military, funeral directors and pathologists, and are all pulling together to do what has to be done.

"Inevitably in these circumstances there may be some delays but we will do all we can to make sure bereaved families have their loved ones back as quickly as possible."

The numbers

76 dead

238 reported missing

164 patients had been admitted as "seriously injured 80 per cent of the city without reticulated water 40 per cent of the city without power

$16 billion JP Morgan damage estimate

1000 number of rescuers by this weekend

40 police cordons in the city

1464 NZDF personnel directly supporting the operation

431 people had gone through the Emergency Department 20 people are thought to remain in the pancaked PGC building

- NZ Herald staff, NZPA

- NZ Herald

Information about what's been damaged in the aftermath of the magnitude 6.3 earthquake and where people can get help:


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