240 dead in NZ quake Silent tribute as toll rises
AS New Zealand marked one week since its darkest day, the death toll from the killer Christchurch quake continued its relentless march towards 240.
Police have identified the bodies of 154 victims, with two Australians – a man and an elderly woman – among those who lost their lives when the shallow 6.3-magnit u d e q u a k e s t r u c k t h e country’s second largest city at lunchtime last Tuesday.
A u s t r a l i a n p a r l i a me n t joined with their Kiwi ‘‘ family’’ to mark that horrific moment, 12.51pm New Zealand time, when the picturesque city was brought to its knees.
Across the country, office workers, school children, shop staff, politicians, even bus drivers, stood in the street looking down, silently paying respects to the dead and their families.
Many shed a tear, hugging those nearby as they remembered their deadliest natural disaster in 80 years. In 1931 a 7.8 earthquake levelled the cities of Napier and Hastings, killing 256.
Even rescue workers at the centre of the devastation in Christchurch’s CBD downed tools to observe the moment before continuing their grim w o r k t o r e c o v e r m o r e crushed bodies.
One week on, their workplace still resembles a war zone, with tanks and soldiers manning cordons that can only be passed by recovery workers, officials and media.
More bodies were pulled f rom t he collapsed Pyne Gould Corporation building, while work was underway to stabilise the 26-storey Grand Chancellor Hotel, which is teetering.
Engineering experts were working to secure the city’s famous cathedral, which has become a tomb for 22 people, mostly tourists, who fell to t h e i r d e a t h w h e n t h e church’s ancient spire and bells caved in.
Among the hardship, a much-needed symbol of hope was pulled from the ruins in n e i g h b o u r i n g C a t h e d r a l Square.
Two time capsules were f ound hidden beneath a f a l l e n s t a t u e o f C h r i s t - church’s founding citizen John Robert Godley.
Musty but intact, the artefacts have given residents ‘‘ a feeling of hope in a very tough time’’, the city’s mayor Bob Parker said.
‘‘ It’s hope we desperately need right now.’’
Meanwhile, new figures have emerged on the full extent of the damage.
More than 10,000 people are homeless, their houses damaged beyond repair and due to be torn down.
A further 100,000 homes are in desperate need of repair to make them safe for people to move back in to.
About 6000 downtown businesses are shut with no chance of reopening on location any time soon.