The devastation in Christchurch is as bad as the destruction caused by an earthquake in Haiti last year, former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark says.

The death toll from Tuesday's earthquake stands at 147, with more than 200 people were still missing.

Ms Clark flew into Christchurch today to view the central city including the CTV and PGC building sites.

"Total devastation, and my heart goes out to everybody. So many people no longer with us. Grieving families. People with terrible injuries. People's livelihoods destroyed ... that's the devastating scene."

Ms Clark, who heads the United Nations development programme and has visited many disaster zones including Haiti last year, said the central city area was as bad as anything she had ever seen.

"This is a city where the life has been squeezed out of it," she said.

When asked why she had wanted to visit she answered: "You can't not come."

"I've been to this city so many times and have been in some of the buildings badly affected and I know a lot of people here. So just to come down here and show solidarity."

The Governor-General today said the effort required to restore some sort of normality to Christchurch will be immense.

Sir Anand Satyanand says the quake shows that New Zealanders are a "single family" but the task ahead was huge.

He said he had been receiving messages of support from all corners of the world including from members of the Royal Family and numerous heads of state throughout the world.

Fears for King's students, staff

Tertiary Education Minister Steven Joyce today met with staff from the King's Education Institute, who told him the number of staff and students missing was unconfirmed, but thought to be at least 60.

"It seems unlikely that anyone else could have survived what happened at the CTV building, but we all pray for that miracle," Mr Joyce said.

Mr Joyce hoped the education bond between New Zealand and the countries affected by the tragedy including Japan, the Philippines and others, would remain strong and tertiary students would continue to choose to study here.

District commander Superintendent Dave Cliff said identification of the bodies recovered has been difficult due to some victims suffering "horrendous injuries" in Tuesday's earthquake.

Mr Cliff wore a huia feather on his uniform at this morning's media conference to signify the death of a police colleague

He hoped to release the name of at least one more victim today.
"It is important to understand some victims suffered horrendous injuries and identification is very difficult."

Recovery work continues at the Christchurch Cathedral this morning, with Urban Search and Rescue Teams crawling through large steel tubes to remove debris in the quest to find around 20 bodies believed to have been buried after Tuesday's earthquake.

The largest search and rescue brigade ever assembled in New Zealand continues to toil in vain as hopes have plummeted for the 200 still missing after the Christchurch earthquake.

At the CTV and Pyne Gould buildings, "delayering" of the buildings will continue today. This work is expected to take a "considerable time", a fire service spokesperson said, as it involves removing debris "piece by piece, slowly and carefully".

A platform has been established at the PGC site to allow the use of "heavy lift equipment" to help remove debris.

The Grand Chancellor building has been safety-assessed and USAR teams have early this morning begun searching surrounding buildings.

At the Cathedral, progress with removing debris has continued overnight, using appliances supplied by local contractors. USAR teams have inserted large steel tubes into some parts of the cathedral and are crawling through these tubes, pushing small hand-guided diggers in front of them to burrow in. From there, they are creating safe havens for themselves as they work outwards from these for further searching.
Outside the cathedral, steelwork is being used to stabilise the front section where the New Zealand USAR team is working.

There have been no signs of life, with the last live rescue on Wednesday 3pm.

Mayor Bob Parker said although it is a Sunday the operation is "just as intense ... just as committed".

"Our thoughts are with the families of those that have been identified as deceased and those still missing."