Rain making Christchurch rescue sites more dangerous

Rescue teams at work on rubble at the site of the CTV Building. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Rescue teams at work on rubble at the site of the CTV Building. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Buildings damaged in Tuesday's earthquake in Christchurch are being made more unstable by rain falling in the city today, police say.

At a joint media conference this morning, Superintendent Dave Cliff said the body count from the earthquake had risen to 113 and police hoped to release more names of victims later today. He said over 200 people were still missing and there were grave fears for their safety.

Paul Baxter from the New Zealad Fire Service said there had been no live rescues this morning but work was continuing at the Pyne Gould building and CTV site. There are now 600 Urban Search and Rescue staff working in the city.

"Preservation of life is still our first priority."

Mr Cliff told reporters today's rain was making the rescue sites more dangerous.

A search and rescue worker was struck on the head by a loose piece of masonry this morning but was fortunately wearing a helmet, he said.

Mr Cliff urged people to respect the cordons around the central business district.

"We are aware of people sneaking into that area who think it is quite clever. Frankly it's stupid and ridiculous."

"Respect those cordons, they're there for a very, very good reason."

Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker reassured families who had lost loved ones and property that the city stood in solidarity with them.

"Your families are our families, your children are our children.

"We are taking full responsibility to do everything we can to assist those families.

Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker told the conference more than half the city had water connections and all areas now had water supplies available.

Power cuts

He said reconnecting the quarter of Christchurch still without power was going to be a difficult and lengthy process.

New overhead lines would have to be built in the eastern part of the city as underground cables were "shot to pieces".

He said 75 per cent of Christchurch had power and that it was hoped that would increase to 80 per cent tonight.

But he said turning the lights back on it the remaining 20 per cent of the city was expected to be much more difficult, warning the "easy hits" were over.

The chief executive or power company Orion told the conference it could take weeks to restore power to parts of eastern Christchurch.

Roger Sutton said four major cables from Bromley substation were extensively damaged in the earthquake.

His workers were constructing a 3km overhead line to provide temporary power to eastern suburbs such as Brighton over the next week.

However, the line was still only likely restore power to half the houses in those areas, he said.

"It's a line that would normally take us six or seven weeks to build and we're hoping to have it done within a week

"But once we have the line though that doesn't mean magically all that... area comes back on."

Mr Sutton said his workers were facing constant difficulties working around damaged infrastructure throughout the city.

He yesterday watched three workers restore power to an area, only to see it short circuit again within minutes.

Civil Defence Director John Hamilton told residents there was no need for them to be concerned about fuel supplies as more were on their way from Timaru and the city would not run out of fuel.

The situation was the same for food supplies, he said "the city is well stocked".

Heroes

Civil Defence Minister John Carter this morning said he understood the last "live rescue" of a survivor had been about 3pm on Wednesday. That was the miracle rescue of Ann Bodkin, who was discovered in the collapsed Pyne Gould building 26 hours after the earthquake struck.

"We are still hopeful there will still be people rescued but it is becoming unlikely," Mr Carter said.

Mr Carter said rescuers would "just continue on with the search until we are satisfied there are no more bodies to recover".

"It is not until you are down in Christchurch that you have an appreciation of the devastation - it is unbelievable."

Rescuers' energies were currently focused on where they know the bodies were, he said.

But Mr Carter said the teams would today begin conducting grid searches of places such as alleyways where they suspected people might have been trapped by falling rubble as they went to and from lunch on Tuesday.

Mr Carter said search and rescue workers in Christchurch were doing an "amazing, outstanding job" and were releasing information as quickly as they could.

"One of things we do need to understand is the teams of people working down there are doing an outstanding job. They are doing everything they can working day in day out.

"These people - a lot of them have their own family and personal issues to deal with.

"They are heroes."

THE NUMBERS

113 confirmed fatalities - four names released
Over 200 missing
70 live rescues
10 international teams on the ground
559 rescuers on the ground
594 seen by emergency departments - 164 of those admitted to hospital
2000 people have had treatment for injuries
11 patients in intensive care
452 people in welfare centres
(John Carter said this number was down on the September quake as more people were self-evacuating the city)
20,131 calls to the Government's help-line
Five active welfare centres

- WITH NZHERALD STAFF

- NZ Herald

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