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NZ quake toll 92, rising

The death toll from the Christchurch earthquake has risen to 92 and
will continue to climb, New Zealand Prime Minister John Key said
The remains of a destroyed house lies in ruins in Christchurch. A
‘miracle’ was required to find more survivors amid the wreckage of
earthquake-hit Christchurch, Prime Minister John Key said Thursday, as
the focus turned to recovering bodies.
News of the fatalities follows a statement from authorities saying
that only a “miracle” could save possibly hundreds of people trapped in
the rubble after the devastating earth tremor.
Two days after the seismic shock laid waste to central Christchurch
and some of its suburbs, police grimly reported there had been no
communication with anyone caught in the wreckage for 24 hours.
“We are hopeful that we might find survivors, but as time passes hopes fade,” superintendent Russell Gibson told TV3.
Prime Minister John Key said an estimate of 300 missing could prove
to be “wildly inaccurate either way”, and urged people to be realistic
about finding more survivors in New Zealand’s worst natural disaster in
80 years.
“That does not mean that there can’t and won’t be people trapped in
buildings,” said Key, adding that names and nationalities of some of
the dead would be released later.
“All over the world when we see disasters like this, we see miracle
stories of people being pulled out, days and in some cases weeks after
the event,” he told TV3. “We can’t give up hope, but we also need to be
An English language school based in the six-storey Canterbury
Television (CTV) building, which was razed to the ground, said 48
students and staff were missing, including 10 members of a Japanese
study group.
Five of the students, who included citizens from a range of Asian
countries, were on just their second day at King’s Education college,
which was on the building’s third floor. Up to 100 people may be
missing in the building.
Japanese search and rescue experts were on the scene and were
combing the CTV site in the shadow of the listing, 26-storey Grand
Chancellor Hotel, Christchurch’s tallest building, which is at risk of
Australian, British, American, Taiwanese and Singaporean teams are
also helping about 500 New Zealand rescuers comb several sites in the
cordoned-off centre of the nation’s second-biggest city.
Emergency workers will fan out to devastated suburbs on Thursday.
Up to 30 people were rescued on the first night but only a handful
emerged from the wreckage on Wednesday, including one woman who spent
26 hours under her desk in the mangled Pyne Gould building.
Brief hopes were raised by a report of signs of life in the Holy
Cross Chapel. But rescuers scrambling to the site were unable to find
any survivors.
Rescue efforts are now entering their final stage, with New
Zealand’s emergency chief saying most trapped people will only be able
to survive for two to three days.
Pyne Gould Corporation said rescue efforts at its four-storey block,
which folded like a concertina, had now turned to recovering bodies
rather than rescuing survivors.
It said 14 people were believed to be in the building.
Condolence messages have been sent from Queen Elizabeth — New
Zealand’s head of state — as well as US President Barack Obama, Pope
Benedict XVI and the Dalai Lama.
New Zealand sits on the “Pacific Ring of Fire”, a vast zone of
seismic and volcanic activity stretching from Chile on one side to
Japan and Indonesia on the other.
Christchurch was rocked by a 7.0-magnitude earthquake in September,
which damaged 100,000 buildings but did not cause any deaths. New
Zealand has not suffered such large loss of life since 256 people died
in a 1931 quake.
Prime Minister Key on Tuesday announced New Zealand’s first ever
national state of emergency, allowing the country’s resources to be
directed towards the quake effort.
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