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Long road to recovery in Christchurch

03-04-2011 13:49 BJT Special Report:6.3-magnitude quake hits New Zealand |

CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand, March 4 (Xinhua) -- New Zealand Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee said on Friday that Christchurch has a long way from coming out of a state of emergency, even though the post-earthquake operation has moved from rescue to recovery.

Civil Defence announced on Thursday that it does not expect any more survivors to be found in the rubble left by the 6.3 quake on Feb. 22.


The last known survivor was rescued on Feb. 23.

The focus is now on recovering as many bodies as possible, so that they can be returned to relatives. The official death toll stands at 163 but it is feared the final number will be about 220.

Brownlee said teams have a lot of buildings to deconstruct and bodies to retrieve.

Once they can determine with confidence that there are no further human remains to recover, he said, widespread demolition will take place - and that has to happen under a state of emergency, because parts of the city need to be closed off during the work.

In the new phase, Brownlee said teams will be changing the way they approach buildings using more heavy equipment.

But he said they will still go about the recovery effort with the utmost respect for any human remains, alert to the small possibility that someone may have survived.

Brownlee said a top priority is to get the cordon around the central city reduced as much as possible, but that depends on plans to demolish the listing Hotel Grand Chancellor and other tall buildings.


New Zealand Prime Minister John Key visited Christchurch's hard- hit eastern suburbs on Friday to try and reassure residents they have not been forgotten.

He acknowledged that residents in the city's eastern suburbs may have felt they were missing out.

But saving 70 lives from the wreckage of the city center had been the most important task for Civil Defence and emergency services, he said.

Welfare centers had been set up to get people in badly damaged areas through the first days after last week's earthquake, Key said.

Key said on Friday an inquiry into the earthquake and details of a national day of remembrance would be discussed at the weekly cabinet meeting on Monday.

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