Christchurch earthquake search and rescue team clears last big building

Last updated 05:00 10/03/2011

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Christchurch earthquake

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The last of the big Christchurch buildings where rescuers were scouring for survivors or bodies has been cleared.

The American Urban Search and Rescue team that was heavily involved in the work at the Forsyth Barr building started flying out of the city yesterday.

The team did complicated work at the building, where four-tonne stairwells collapsed. No bodies were recovered there, leaving the death toll at 166.

After the departure of the Americans, foreign USAR teams from Australia, China, Japan and Singapore remain in the city, but they are moving away from large buildings in the central city to smaller structures a little further out.

Water is connected to 88 per cent of homes and it is expected drinking water will have to be boiled for at least another two weeks.

Respite for the toilet-deprived is in sight, however, with 5000 chemical toilets to be distributed today, and 20,000 more on the way.

Power company Orion has connected electricty to 98 per cent of its customers, but 2186 homes in North New Brighton and 4600 homes and businesses in the CBD are still unconnected. Orion chief executive Roger Sutton said the power network was growing "like a Lego man".

The last of the welfare centres, at Pioneer Stadium, was closed yesterday.

Police Superintendent Dave Cliff expressed concern yesterday over careless driving, saying an "awful lot of drivers" were doing "really dumb things".

"They're talking on a cellphone while driving, not wearing seatbelts and speeding. The last thing we want is for some innocent child to be struck by an inattentive driver," he said.

Today, 70 Australian police would leave and a further 160 would go tomorrow. A fresh contingent of Australian police would replace them.

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