Death toll in Christchurch quake expected to top 200
Feb 27, 2011, 6:37 GMT
Packs of media visit quake damage during special media bus tours through the centre of Christchurch, New Zealand, 26 February 2011. Christchurch was rocked by a 6.3 magnitude earthquake at 12.51 pm on 22 February laying waste to much of the city. Hundreds of people remain trapped in collapsed buildings and rubble across the cental business district of the popular tourist spot. EPA/TRACEY NEARMY
Wellington - The final death toll from last week's 6.3-magnitude quake in Christchurch is expected to top 200, authorities said Sunday.
Police Superintendent David Cliff said 147 people were confirmed dead, while more than 200 were listed as missing.
'We know many, if not all, of the confirmed dead will be on that list,' Cliff said. 'So there are still over 50 unaccounted for.'
He said he believed the final toll would just over 200.
Search teams were scouring the rubble in the city and its suburbs.
Their work was being described as a rescue operation, but no one has been saved since Wednesday afternoon and there have been no signs of life at the sites being cleared.
Electricity was restored to 85 per cent of the area and 65 per cent of homes had water, but infrastructure such as the sewage system was severely damaged and all water still needed to be boiled.
Thousand of volunteers were working in the streets helping to clear mud created when the ground liquefied due to the violent shaking.
Many people abandoned their homes or have been forced to leave because they are unsafe. It was expected that the central business district would remain cordoned off indefinitely, leaving many people out of work.
Prime Minister John Key on Sunday launched an international appeal to raise relief funds for the recovery effort.
'It's vital we reach as many people throughout the world as possible who want to help. This isn't just New Zealand's tragedy, the February 22 earthquake affected countless people internationally,' Key said.
The first funeral for a Christchurch quake victim will be held on Monday, when the remains of a 5-month-old baby will be buried.
Key called for two minutes of silence to be observed nationwide from 12:51 pm on Tuesday as a sign of unity for the victims, one week after the South Island's largest city was devastated by the quake.
Victims from more than 20 countries were among the dead.
Tuesday's quake struck as office buildings and streets were full of people. It was centred much closer to the surface and nearer to the city than a 7.1-magnitude quake in September that caused widespread damage but no fatalities.