Families waiting for the bodies of their loved ones to be returned to them after the Christchurch mosque attacks are becoming frustrated with how long it is taking - but they understand a legal process has to be followed.

Police say they are "acutely aware" of the length of time being taken to identify bodies, and are doing all they can to do the work as quickly as possible.

Islamic religious law usually calls for the body to be washed and shrouded in white cloth before being buried within 24 hours of death.

A police officer collecting flowers left by mourners to be placed outside the Al Noor Mosque in Christchurch. Photo / Mark Mitchell
A police officer collecting flowers left by mourners to be placed outside the Al Noor Mosque in Christchurch. Photo / Mark Mitchell

But it has now been more than about 100 hours since the massacre that claimed 50 lives, and families waiting for news of the return of the bodies are becoming frustrated.

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Only six bodies so far have been released to families, according to the latest police update. Six more have been identified and police are working with families to release these.

"Normally we shouldn't wait too long to bury, but in this case they're still taking time," said Mohammed Bilal, whose cousin Syed Areeb Ahmen was killed on Friday.

"It's hard, especially for Syed's family in Pakistan. He was the only son. It's really hard for the parents.

Read more: Faces of the fallen

"We have to wait. It's the government process. They have to [accept that]."

He said the burial rituals have stood since the birth of the faith.

"That's the process we all have to follow, every Muslim has to follow. It's been like that for 1400 years," Bilal told the Herald outside the family assistance centre near Hagley Oval.

Asad Ali and his wife came down from Taranaki yesterday to support the family of Ashraf Ali, who was among those killed.

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"It's getting so frustrating for them that they can't get the body and lay him in peace. That's the biggest frustration, and there's not much information coming out ... so many rumours going around they don't know what to do.

"They are just waiting patiently and hoping they will release the bodies soon."

He said the family understood there were legal obligations to meet, but a more definite indication of timing would be helpful.

"Even if they said, for example, they will release the bodies on Thursday, it would ease the family's tension. But going day to day not knowing what's happening so they can make preparations, that's the most frustrating thing for the family."

The twin brother of Junaid Ismail, Zahid, also made a plea this morning for more information about his brother's body being returned.

People comfort each other outside the Linwood Ave Mosque in Christchurch. Photo / Alan Gibson
People comfort each other outside the Linwood Ave Mosque in Christchurch. Photo / Alan Gibson

Police said post-mortem examinations have been completed on all 50 victims. Twelve have been identified to the satisfaction of the coroner and six of those identified victims have been returned to their families.

Police were working with families about the return of the other six identified victims.

"We are acutely aware of frustrations for families associated with the length of time required for the identification process," a police spokesperson said.

"We are doing all we can to undertake this work as quickly as possible and return the victims to their loved ones."

The spokesperson said identification can be a complex process, especially in circumstances like the current ones.

"Our absolute priority is to get this right and ensure that no mistakes are made.

"We are also looking at any way to improve our communications with the families and ensure they are kept fully informed about what is happening."

The Federation of Islamic Associations NZ women's affairs manager, Rehanna Ali, said yesterday that the burial rituals help with the grieving process.

The bodies are washed and cleaned for their journey to God, she said.

Burial arrangements were still being discussed. It is understood some may be repatriated to other countries, while others may be put in the ground in a mass burial.