240 dead in NZ quake Silent tribute as toll rises

Townsville Bulletin - - News -

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.

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