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Quake toll rises, hopes fade

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2011-02-24

Despite using sniffer dogs and microphones, rescuers in Christchurch now hold slim hope of finding more survivors of Tuesday's earthquake. The death toll has surpassed 100, with 228 missing.

REUTERS - New Zealand and international rescue teams held out little hope of finding survivors three days after an earthquake struck Christchurch as the death toll reached 103 with more than 200 missing.

 Teams from quake-prone countries such as Japan, Taiwan and the United States used sniffer dogs and lowered microphones into piles of rubble to probe for signs of life after a 6.3 magnitude quake struck the country's second biggest city.

Hundreds of rescuers toiled for a third night under floodlights in a desperate search for people trapped in collapsed buildings.

"We haven't managed to find any more survivors, but our work continues. Brick by brick we are pulling buildings apart," police shift commander Russell Gibson said.

He said 228 people were listed as missing but it was likely that included people who were among the dead.

Rescuers were working under threat that a 26-storey hotel tower might collapse, possibly bringing down other buildings. Engineers were checking the building to see if an exclusion zone around it could be reduced allowing other buildings to be checked.

More than half of the dead have come from the ruin of the former Canterbury Television (CTV) building. An English school for foreign students had become a tomb, with more than 50 bodies pulled from the rubble and many more thought to be inside.

"Every few hours we stop and do a technical search just in case, but being realistic, based on what we've seen so far, we're not going to be seeing anyone alive coming out of that space," said fire rescue chief Jim Stuart Black.

Further international help was set to arrive on Friday from Britain, China and the United States, which will allow the search to be extended.

Civil Defence Minister John Carter said they were still hoping that by some miracle people would be found alive but were bracing for the worst.

"The last live rescue we had reported was Wednesday. We are still hopeful of course that there still may be people rescued but it's getting less likely," Carter said.

The last person found alive was a woman at mid-afternoon on Wednesday.

Police have released the names of only four of the dead, including two infants of five and nine months. More are due on Friday, but foreign reports have said two Britons, two Irish and an Australian were among the dead.

The worst fears centred on the six-story television building, which was thought to be the deadliest single collapse with up to 120 people inside, including many missing Japanese and Chinese students.

The landmark Christchurch Cathedral was also thought to have between 16 and 22 bodies inside, and about eight are believed to be still inside a finance company building.

Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said 26 Japanese students were still missing at the CTV site, while Taiwan said one of its citizens was also thought to be inside.


Date created : 2011-02-24


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