Christchurch quake: New Zealand holds church services

Supt Dave Cliff, Christchurch Police, said identifiying bodies was proving difficult

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Victims of this week's magnitude 6.3 earthquake that devastated the centre of Christchurch have been honoured at church services across New Zealand.

Tuesday's quake killed at least 147 people; about 50 are still missing.

Prime Minister John Key said there was still a glimmer of hope survivors could be found in the wreckage of the country's worst-ever disaster.

But no-one has been found alive since Wednesday, and rescuers working for a fifth day are only finding bodies.

Fearing the worst

In the meantime, engineers say at least a third of the buildings in the centre of Christchurch will need to be demolished, while hundreds of damaged suburban homes may also have to be pulled down.

Mr Key said the disaster "may be New Zealand's single most tragic event", outstripping a 1931 quake in Napier which killed 256.

He said a two-minute silence would be held on Tuesday at 1251 local time (2351 GMT Monday), a week after the quake struck.

Having met relatives of the dead and missing, Mr Key said: "It's fair to say they fear the worst but there is still a glimmer of hope."

Families of the missing have appealed for the process of identifying dead bodies to be accelerated, but officials have asked for patience.

Updating the lists of the dead and missing was a slow and methodical process, said police spokesman Dave Cliff.

"We are going through it as fast as we possibly can in order to get the deceased reunited with their loved ones," he said.

Superintendent Cliff clarified that only about 50 people are unaccounted for - authorities had previously said about 200 people were missing but now it appears that figure includes the confirmed fatalities.

Tough work

Rescuers from 10 countries, including Britain, Japan and the United States, have been searching broken buildings and piles of debris, as aftershocks continue.

An earth mover is parked in a street to demolish a collapsed building in Lyttelton on 26 February 2011 in Christchurch, New Zealand. Rescuers say they are losing hope of finding the scores of people still missing

Emergency worker Phil Parker said teams of eight to 12 people were still going into buildings, but said the work was tough and unpredictable.

"We won't be going into buildings that are deemed unsafe, that's why we're checking them now, but there's always that danger of the buildings coming down on us," he told the BBC.

Many damaged buildings will have to be pulled down, said Auckland University structural engineer Jason Ingham.

"We've collected some data over the past couple of days and it's looking like about one-third of the buildings (would be condemned)," he told TVNZ.

For many residents, it is all too much, and there is an exodus from Christchurch, says the BBC's Phil Mercer in the city.

Officials believe up to 22 bodies may lie beneath the rubble of Christchurch Cathedral; as many as 120 are thought to have been killed inside the collapsed CTV office block, including Japanese, Chinese and Philippine nationals; many others are presumed dead inside the destroyed Pyne Gould Guinness building.

Power has been restored to most of the city but water supply remains a problem, with residents being urged to boil water for drinking or cooking due to contamination fears.

The quake struck at a shallow depth of 5km (3.1 miles) on Tuesday lunchtime, when the South Island city was at its busiest.

CLICKABLE Select the images for more details.

Bexley, Christchurch, New Zealand Pyne Gould Guinness, Christchurch, New Zealand Cathedral, Christchurch, New Zealand CTV, Christchurch, New Zealand Oxford terrace, Christchurch, New Zealand

Bexley

Bexley,  Christchurch, New Zealand

Streets in the north-eastern suburb of Bexley were flooded as the quake caused water mains to burst, which coincided with heavy rain.

Pyne Gould Guinness

Pyne Gould Guinness

The multi-storey Pyne Gould Guinness Building, which normally houses around 200 workers, collapsed. A number of people were thought to be trapped inside.

Cathedral

Cathedral,  Christchurch, New Zealand

The 63m spire of the city's Anglican cathedral was toppled by the earthquake. A New Zealand TV reporter took a look inside the damaged building.

CTV building

CTV building, Christchurch, New Zealand

Part of Christchurch's Canterbury Television [CTV] building completely collapsed in the earthquake. Some 24 people have been rescued from the building, but police said there might be between 60 and 120 bodies trapped underneath.

Oxford Terrace

Oxford terrace,  Christchurch, New Zealand

In the aftermath of the earthquake, Rhys Taylor took this video on Oxford Terrace, 50 metres away from the city's main hospital. He said: "Cars were being used as ambulances to transport the injured."

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