Hope of finding more New Zealand quake survivors dims
CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand — Hopes of finding more survivors of the devastating earthquake here waned yesterday as officials expressed grave concerns for more than 200 people still missing in the disaster, including many foreigners.
At least 113 people, including two infants, were killed in the 6.3-magnitude quake that struck New Zealand’s second-largest city on Tuesday, toppling office buildings and raining debris on buses and cars. The police warned yesterday that scores of bodies may still be buried in the rubble.
At least 226 people were still unaccounted for, according to Superintendent Dave Cliff, the commander of the Canterbury District Police. He said officials have serious and grave concerns for the missing and urged people awaiting news of their loved ones to give the police any information that might help identify their remains.
Cliff said that many of the 98 bodies recovered so far had not been identified and may account for some of the missing people. Nevertheless, officials cautioned that the final toll could be higher still.
“We are very fearful tonight that the death toll could be much greater than any of us ever feared,’’ Prime Minister John Key told TVNZ, the national broadcaster. He and Cliff said the figure of 226 missing did not include foreigners whose families may not yet have contacted the police in New Zealand.
Earlier yesterday, Cliff said that rescue workers had determined that there was no chance of finding any survivors at two of the most heavily damaged sites: Christchurch Cathedral and the Canterbury Television headquarters building , which also housed an English-language school.
He said as many as 22 people were believed to have been in and around the cathedral when its stone steeple collapsed into the city’s main square, and that between 60 and 120 people could be buried in the debris of the Canterbury Television building.
A number of those missing and feared dead are foreigners.