Christchurch earthquake: Rescue teams switch focus to grim task

Members of the NZW search and rescue team walk out from the site of the CTV building in central Christchurch. Photo / Sarah Ivey
Members of the NZW search and rescue team walk out from the site of the CTV building in central Christchurch. Photo / Sarah Ivey

Emergency teams hoping to find survivors in the rubble have switched focus to the grim task of retrieving the dead from what is left of downtown Christchurch.

No one has been found alive since the miracle rescue of Ann Bodkin, who was discovered in the collapsed Pyne Gould building 26 hours after the earthquake struck.

Prime Minister John Key last night said 98 bodies were in a temporary morgue and 226 people were missing.

He was cautious about saying the number of fatalities could hit 300.

"We are obviously very fearful that the death toll may be even greater than we feared."

Police Superintendent Dave Cliff last night read the names of four earthquake victims, including two babies: Jayden Harris, 9 months, and Baxtor Gowland, 5 months.

Among the missing are 122 people believed to be inside the Canterbury Television building.Police earlier described the damage to the building as "100 per cent unsurvivable".

Most of those unaccounted for, feared dead, are 80 staff and students from the English language school King's Education, including principal Brian Taylor.

"I sent 10 text messages to Brian saying 'where are you? tell me where you are, let me know where you are'," said a tearful college director Graeme Dodd.

"The last thing I said was 'I'm coming to find you'."

One of the CTV survivors was Japanese student Kento Okuda.

"I have lost a leg. They had to cut it off to save me," he told his mother in a telephone call.

Likewise, a 52-year-old man had both legs amputated above the knee in a desperate bid to pull him from the Pyne Gould Corporation building.

A visiting Australian doctor performed the rare emergency amputation - more often seen in a war zone - with a hacksaw and the survivor was in a stable condition at Waikato Hospital last night.

But hope for more survivors in the PGC building was extinguished yesterday.

While there had been several successful rescue attempts, chief executive Jeff Greenslade said 10 Perpetual and four Marac staff were left behind.

Emergency teams told him the rescue effort was now a recovery mission.

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

About 22 people, mainly tourists, still lay unrecovered in the ruins of the Christchurch Cathedral.

The tragedy has had effects far beyond New Zealand - among the missing and dead are international visitors including Chinese, Japanese, Taiwanese, Filipinos and Britons.

But as rescue efforts moved to the heartbreaking work of recovering bodies in the city, survivors got on with backbreaking work of cleaning up their stricken streets.

John Key flew over suburban Christchurch yesterday and said in pockets the devastation was worse than in the central city.

"While we don't have perfect numbers, it's highly likely that there will be more residential properties that will be uninhabitable than in the [September] earthquake, and that was 3300."

The suburb of Bexley was wallowing in liquefaction from the September earthquake. This time, the damage is worse.

Residents grabbed spades and were again shovelling and scraping the charcoal grey sludge covering their homes, driveways and roads.

Despite the hard work, Donna Jackson was bright and friendly and summed up why locals were smiling through their pain. "Because we're not dead."

THE NUMBERS

$163,000
amount paid in emergency grants

50,000
Christchurch residents without power for weeks

200
elderly people in rest homes evacuated

431
patients at Christchurch Hospital ED

164
admitted with serious injuries

226
missing

98
dead

- NZ Herald

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