N.Z. rescuers plod on as more bodies found

Feb. 24, 2011 at 11:41 PM
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CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand, Feb. 25 (UPI) -- Exhausted rescue workers in New Zealand's earthquake-ruined Christchurch toiled Friday in search of survivors while only finding more bodies.

With the death toll mounting by the hour, hopes faded there would many survivors among those trapped under the rubble and debris of buildings and structures destroyed by Tuesday's 6.3-magnitude earthquake that was shaping to become the deadliest in the history of a country prone to such disasters because of its geography.

The latest count put the death toll at 113, while more than 200 still unaccounted for, various reports said.

Civil Defense Minister John Carter, describing the devastation as "unbelievable," noted that despite monumental efforts by rescue teams, he understood there had not been a "live rescue" of a survivor since about 3 p.m. on Wednesday, the New Zealand Herald reported.

The last was Ann Bodkin, who was trapped in the collapsed Pyne Gould office towers for about 26 hours before being saved.

"We are still hopeful there will still be people rescued but it is becoming unlikely," Carter was quoted as saying, while noting rescuers doing "an amazing, outstanding job," would also continue working "until we are satisfied there are no more bodies to recover."

Police Superintendent Dave Cliff said the dead included two babies, 9 and 5 months old.

The Herald, quoting police, reported among those listed as missing were about 120 were believed to be in the badly burned Canterbury Television building, where rescue efforts were stopped for safety reasons.

Another 22 people, mostly tourists, were believed trapped in the ruins of the Christchurch Cathedral.

Those killed and reported missing included foreigners from China, Japan, Taiwan, the Philippines, and Britain.

The Wall Street Journal reported adding to the problems of Christchurch were aftershocks. Police also placed a curfew to prevent looting.

The Journal reported the interior floors of the 26-story Grand Chancellor Hotel, the city's tallest which had been tilting, had collapsed but the building had not fallen.

J.P. Morgan has estimated the damage so far at $12 billion.

CNN reported rescue teams also conducted more house-to-house searches in residential areas for survivors.

The BBC reported teams from Australia, Japan, China, Britain and the United States were assisting in the search for survivors

An earlier BBC report said about 120 people had so far been pulled out of collapsed buildings with some needing amputations.

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key, who declared a national state of emergency after arriving in Christchurch, said it was likely that more residential areas in the city would become uninhabitable than the 3,300 destroyed in the 7.1-magnitude quake last September but which fortunately spared lives.

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