Christchurch earthquake: Toll likely to top 200

By Paul Harper

Rescue workers in the CBD. Photo / Simon Baker
Rescue workers in the CBD. Photo / Simon Baker

The death toll from the massive Christchurch earthquake will be more than 200, police said tonight.

Superintendent Dave Cliff confirmed the death toll in Christchurch had increased to 147.

He said there are still more than 200 people missing, including a New Zealand police officer.

"We know many - if not all - of the confirmed dead will be on that list," Mr Cliff said this evening.

"So there are still over 50 unaccounted for."

That would give a total of more than 200 dead - "and probably a little higher than that, ultimately".

Police hope tomorrow morning to release two more names of those officially identified.

Mayor Bob Parker said there has already been as much silt removed from city streets as there was after September 4.

It is believed five times as much silt has seeped from the ground due to liquefaction compared to the earlier quake.

He warned people to stay out of the water in the North Beach, Waimairi, Parklands areas as waste is being released directly into the sea due to damage to sewage main pipes.

Fire Service spokesperson Paul Baxter said there had been an increase of callouts to deal hazardous materials as a result of the quake and motor vehicle accidents.

Meanwhile, search and rescue teams continue the "slow and painstaking process" of sifting through the city's rubble.

Christchurch rebuild affordable - Key

Prime Minister John Key says there will be about $14 billion available to rebuild Christchurch but the huge project won't start until aftershocks have ended and quake-stricken area has settled down.

"I believe we can afford it. There's no question this is going to have an impact on government funds, but if we take $4b out of the EQC fund and $5b worth of reinsurance and add it to the private insurers' liability which is roughly about $5b, we'll have a provision of about $14b," he said.

"Ultimately, the earthquake is likely to cost more than that...it's far too early to tell."

Mr Key said there had been some discussion about whether there would be a special earthquake levy.

"We haven't completed our final analysis but we're asking Treasury's advice, and their preference was not to have the special levy," he said.

"But it's guaranteed that EQC levies in their current form will rise.

"No decision has been made yet, but I think you could expect it to double or triple."

- with NZPA

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