Christchurch quake toll 75, dozens missing

Last updated 04:31 24/02/2011

Bob Parker on recovery progress

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Families devastated as rescue re-prioritised

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A military vehicle parks in the street while residents leave the city centre.

On the scene at the CTV building

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Footage from Christchurch central following the earthquake

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Christchurch earthquake

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LATEST: Central Christchurch is in lockdown overnight as rescue teams continue to search for survivors.

Search and rescue teams and the Fire Service resumed work at the collapsed Canterbury Television building last night some hours after safety risks forced the temporary suspension of rescue efforts.

A firefighting team moved into the collapsed CTV building to put out a fire in the basement, while diggers are clearing rubble at the back of the collapsed building, TVNZ reported.

Police said more than 100 people may have been lost in the CTV building.

While the work was a recovery operation as more survivors were not expected, the teams remained hopeful, police said.

Earlier, what appeared to be sniffer dogs were seen being led over the pile of rubble though they returned empty-handed soon after.  


Email your quake photos and stories at newstips@stuff.co.nz


The pile where the building used to stand on the corner of Madras and Cashel is still smoldering with large plumes of smoke billowing from it all yesterday afternoon.

A large piece of the building still stands unsupported on its northern side and officials are worried it could fall.

The building housed an English language school as well as TV studios.

The central city was placed under curfew from 6.30pm. Police have said they would arrest anyone found without valid identification within the four avenues bordering the central city.

Searchers, and family and friends waiting for news of loved ones face a cold, wet night with MetService forecasting temperatures to drop to 8 degC overnight.

Christchurch was hit by a 6.3 magnitude earthquake yesterday, with 75 deaths confirmed.

Police have also ordered a temporary evacuation of a part of Clifton Hill near Sumner last night and there were reports of looting as part of the city is placed under an overnight curfew.

Around 6pm this evening police told some Clifton Hill residents to leave their homes after spotting cracks underneath two properties on Kinsey Tce.

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The Press' online editor, Colin Espiner, who lives on Kinsey Tce, said police were going door to door on the street near Sumner ordering people to leave.

"I didn't even time to pack a bag. We were just told leave or you'll be arrested,'' he said.

"Kingsey Tce has suffered a lot of damage. My house was pretty much destroyed. The cops starting banging on the door and said you had to get out. I don't know what they'd seen but something had really spooked them."

Police spokesman Stephen Hill said engineers were currently assessing the site. ''It's a temporary evacuation. If it is safe they [residents] can go back in,'' he said.

Civil Defence Minister David Carter has refused to speculate on the death toll in Christchurch.

Prime Minister John Key has described the scene in the central city yesterday evening as "surreal" because of the extreme quietness against the backdrop of devastation.

Key says the Christchurch CBD will have to be rebuilt and there are still risks of further damage.

He said the Hotel Grand Chancellor, Christchurch's biggest building, could fall over and "cause a mini earthquake and take out other buildings with it".

The land in the CBD was also very badly damaged due to liquefaction, he told TV3's John Campbell. "That's the big problem here."

He said the earthquake had been "agonising, unfair and cruel" to those families who had lost someone.

HORROR ALL AROUND

Hope, anguish, denial, and finally grief. The full spectrum of emotions were experienced outside the Canterbury Television building.

The four-story structure on the corner of Madras St and Cashel St was unrecognisable  a mixture of twisted steel, rubble and car wrecks.

Earlier reports that 15 people had been found alive in a pocket had buoyed the group, but the information was later shot down by emergency services.

The plight of Kent Manning, 15, his sister Lizzy and their father, Jonathan, was captured by a photo journalist.

Near the smouldering remains of the CTV building, the pair sat on a rain-sodden patch of grass waiting for news of their mother, Donna, a television presenter who they hadn't heard from since the quake.

"My mum is superwoman, she'd do anything," said Lizzy, 18, with tears running down her face.

At that moment, a police official knelt down beside the pair.

"I have some horrible news ...," the officer began, before telling the siblings that there was no hope for anyone left trapped inside the building.

The siblings bowed their heads and wept. Their father rushed over and enclosed them in an embrace.

Still the tight-knit family refused to give up, asking police to make enquiries at the overridden hospital to ensure she was not among the injured.

But speaking to The Press yesterday, Jonathan Manning admitted that his former wife, and still good friend, was definitely gone.

His children had withdrawn into themselves and were still absorbing their loss, but they would proud of what their mother had achieved.

"They would say that she was just an incredible mother, she was just focused on them and their lives and needs  they would be absolutely proud of who she is and what she did with her life," he said.

"She was larger than life, so vibrant. She loved her kids, adored her kids. She was a devoted mother and a devoted member of her family."

The Mannings were not the only family in mourning. By mid-afternoon the activity had ceased, after the site was deemed unsafe and rescue efforts re-routed to more promising sites including the PGG building on Cambridge Tce.

As reality began to sink in the tearful groups began to dwindle, until only a few desperate relatives were left.

A tired Chinese group, hoping to find their friend alive, refused to give up hope.

One man spent eight hours digging non-stop on Monday to try and find his girlfriend.

The man, who did not speak English, then returned the next morning and worked until yesterday afternoon until he collapsed with sleep, his friend said.

The woman was a teacher at a language school in the building and it was believed another 15 Chinese students were also inside when it collapsed, he said.

A man waiting with his 23-year-old son said his ex-partner, his son's mother, was believed to also be trapped in the rubble. He said his son had called him in a panic after the quake.

"My son rang me, and he said 'Mum's not answering the phone, Mum's not answering the phone."

CITY IN LOCKDOWN

The CBD has been evacuated but a contingent of media were allowed to remain at Latimer Square just metres from where the CTV building lies in a smouldering heap of rubble until late yesterday evening

The restrictions are being put in place partly for safety reasons, but also to keep criminal elements out of the city.

Police have made about six arrests today for theft and burglary.

The Hotel Grand Chancellor is visible down Hereford St and there are fears the 70m building will collapse.

It is on a visible lean and rescue workers had reported hearing glass panes exploding under the pressure as the building lists.

A four-block cordon has been set up for safety should the building fall.

Meanwhile Stuff readers have expressed frustration that police have been too busy to deal with looters.

"I tried about six times to contact the police but was only able to get a brief message to them and they had no resources to attend," said one Christchurch resident.

"I pretended to take photos of the destroyed building but was actually taking photos of the offenders."

Key has praised the efforts of citizens who had selflessly looked after tourists who had been evacuated from the city.

He thanked the international assistance effort.

Singaporean soldiers could be seen helping man cordons around the city today.

Key said the city would be rebuilt but "it won't be rebuilt in the form it's in at the moment".

Late this morning Mayor Bob Parker and Prime Minister John Key confirmed at least 75 people were dead. They said 55 bodies had been identified and there were a further 20 unidentified bodies.

Parker said another 300 people were listed as missing, though not all of them would be trapped in buildings that were being searched for survivors.

AMAZING RESCUE

The sun broke through the clouds at the precise moment Ann Bodkin was pulled alive from the Pyne Gould Corporation (PGC) building about 2.15pm yesterday, but another 14 are still believed to be trapped in the rubble. 

Rescuers had been working for about three hours to break through the rubble and concrete to get to Bodkin.

They had heard her tapping through a wall where she was trapped in a very confined space about halfway up the wreckage of the building.

She could see hands as rescuers reached into the space, although there were nervous moments shortly before she got out as the building shook in another of the numerous tremors.

Bodkin finally crawled out of the building on to a Fire Service ladder and was lowered down and lifted to the ground by firefighters. Her husband Graham Richardson was waiting.

He said it was just amazing "to have her back in his arms".

She was taken to hospital straight away to be checked out, but apart from a sore shoulder appeared to be uninjured, he said, but was expected to stay in hospital overnight.

When she was freed from the rubble she was unable to say anything to him because she had an oxygen mask on, but giggled at what he said to her.

However, he would not divulge what he had told her.

FRANTIC RECOVERY EFFORTS - ANXIOUS WAIT

Recovery efforts this afternoon moved to the PGC building, where 14 staff, a group including workers from PGC as well as its subsidiaries Marac Finance and Perpetual Trust, remained unaccounted for.

PGC managing director Jeff Greenslade says the sight of the company's collapsed Christchurch office on Cambridge Terrace is "beyond words to describe".

"Remarkably the ground floor looks intact - the left hand side of the building all looks fine but everything above it has just concertinaed down.

"They're bringing people out quite regularly but it's a very painstaking and thorough process to make sure they're brought out safely, so it takes a while."

Mark Maynard is facing a long wait for news of his wife who works on the first floor of the collapsed PGC building.

Kelly Maynard phoned her husband just 20 minutes before yesterday's earthquake to say she had left her cell phone at home. He has not heard from her since the building collapsed.

Fire Commander Mike Hall said heavy machinery was being brought in to tackle the debris at the PGC building, but it was going to be slow progress.

In an emotional address this morning Key announced a national emergency, telling the nation it would get through the disaster.

"This country is right behind you and we are backing you with all of our might."

CITY IN RUINS

Shane Cole, a fireman and a member of the urban search and rescue team, said rescue staff were operating in "perilous" conditions with aftershocks further destabilising buildings.

He said their focus from the start had been to extract those still alive and they had been forced to work around fatalities.

"We just had to give up [on them] and concentrate on the live people."

Police Superintendent Russell Gibson said central Christchurch was ruined.

"Everywhere you look there is just absolute carnage," he said.

"There are bodies littering the streets, they are trapped in cars, crushed under rubble ... where they are clearly deceased, our focus has turned on the living."

Gibson told Radio New Zealand that some people had been rescued without a scratch. But, "we've had other people who have had limbs amputated to get them out."

He said the rescue mission was a "painstaking job". "We're receiving knocks, people crying, people calling out to us."

Meanwhile, a temporary mortuary to deal with Christchurch earthquake victims has been moved to the Burnham Military Camp "for capacity reasons".

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