Earthquake 'not just NZ's tragedy'

Colombo Street after Tuesday's earthquake. Photo / Simon Baker
Colombo Street after Tuesday's earthquake. Photo / Simon Baker

Tuesday's devastating 6.3 magnitude earthquake in Christchurch is not just New Zealand's tragedy, Foreign Minister Murray McCully says.

Addressing media this afternoon, Mr McCully said the rescue phase after the earthquake was drawing to its conclusion.

"We are going through a difficult period as more as are recovered and more and more families find out their loved ones are deceased."

Mr McCully said he had told diplomats that many overseas families would have to be informed of relatives' deaths.

"We are getting to the stage where we will be giving bad news to these families," he said.

Mr McCully could not say how many of the missing were foreign nationals and how many were New Zealand residents.

"I can say clearly this is not just New Zealand's tragedy."

International visitors including Chinese, Japanese, Taiwanese, Filipinos and Britons are believed to among the missing and the dead.

Earthquake Minister Gerry Brownlee said the national state of emergency declared after the earthquake hit was likely to continue for several weeks.

Mr Brownlee said the EQC had received 181,000 claims as a result of the September 4 earthquake and another 130,000 are expected after this week's quake "making it one of the biggest insurance events in the world".

Rescue sites further damaged by rain

Police earlier said quake-damaged buildings were being made more unstable by rain falling in the city.

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".

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

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