Grieving families can finally hold services to remember their loved ones after getting official confirmation of their deaths almost three months after the Christchurch earthquake.

Chief coroner Judge Neil MacLean yesterday declared dead nine people who were trapped in the collapsed Canterbury Television building on February 22.

A lack of remains meant this group could not be identified as other quake victims were.

The nine died as the result of "multiple traumatic injuries", but at least one initially survived the building collapse before succumbing to her injuries, an inquest in Christchurch heard yesterday.

Nurse and English language student Rhea Mae Sumalpong, 25, of the Philippines, was able to speak to others making cellphone calls while stuck in the rubble.

Detective Inspector Paul Kench said those calls indicated Miss Sumalpong was alive, but could not make calls herself because her hands were trapped.

She "lingered on alive and trapped as fire swept through the building", Judge MacLean said.

Miss Sumalpong's mother, Marlene Sumalpong, told the Herald it was devastating to think of what it must have been like for her daughter before her death.

She had spoken to her the day before the quake, through the internet, and Miss Sumalpong had asked for the webcam to be turned on her sister in Australia so she could see her.

"Now I will just remember the way we were talking the night before," Mrs Sumalpong said. "We only borrow our time from God. She is an angel now protecting our family."

David Beaumont, whose son Matthew Beaumont, 31, was a CTV staff member working in the building, said yesterday's inquest "draws a line in the sand".

"We've now got something that defines that Matthew is dead. We have known that for weeks, but this is just a confirmation that now we can move on legally with a memorial service. All that happened [at the inquest] was just black and white. But life's not like that. Life's full of colour."

While his family had no remains to lay to rest, they had "a lot of him left - it's all in memories".

Sandy Dawson, whose son Shawn Lucas also died in the CTV building, said her family could go ahead with a memorial service at the end of the month and "just remember the fun times".

"The hardest part was to accept that there wasn't going to be any form of identification, no body, no nothing. But I guess when I saw the extent of the fire that raged through [the CTV building], and I knew where his office was, it was a real possibility that we might not have him identified. It's like he vanished."