Christchurch death toll rises to 159

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Christchurch - The death toll from the devastating 22 February Christchurch earthquake has risen to 159 after four more bodies were recovered.

Police Superintendent Dave Cliff told a joint press conference on Tuesday that 11 people have now been officially named and police expect the death toll to reach about 240 once all the bodies have been recovered from collapsed buildings and identified.

Fire Service spokesman Russell Smith said teams had now travelled up to the 10th floor of the severely damaged Grand Chancellor Hotel and confirmed there was no one inside.

They had shored up a wall at the Christchurch Cathedral to allow teams access to up to 22 bodies inside, he said.

High winds were an issue for search and rescue teams on Wednesday morning while working on unstable and damaged buildings.

Civil Defence controller Steve Brazier said building assessors had to break through doors to check some properties for earthquake damage.

Locksmiths were traveling with the teams to repair the doors after they left, he said.

He urged residents to look out for vulnerable people who may have "fallen through the cracks" in the Christchurch disaster response.

The chief executive officer of power company Orion said 27 000 customers, mainly in the eastern suburbs of Christchurch, remained without power. He said those suburbs had sustained a "huge amount of damage" to their infrastructure.

Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker said residents of 60 homes in Sumner remained evacuated due to a significantly unstable cliff face above their properties.

Parker said reticulated water had now been restored to 67 percent of Christchurch homes.

The main road north was now open and work was being done to fix the sewerage system. - BuaNews-Xinhua