24 Feb 2011

Quake death toll rises to 76

4:57 pm on 24 February 2011

The confirmed death toll in the Christchurch earthquake has risen to 76, but the Police Minister Judith Collins says that number will rise.

Ms Collins praised the bravery of rescue workers trying to bring people out of the rubble of destroyed buildings.

Prime Minister John Key says the names of some of those killed in the Christchurch earthquake will be released on Thursday.

Mr Key says police will only release names when a positive identification has been made and the next of kin have been informed.

He said only a small number of number of names will be released initially as there are a number of families who are not comfortable at this point with any names being publicly released.

Mr Key said the early indications were that there may be fatalities from a number of countries.

Superintendent Dave Cliff says 238 people are still missing in Christchurch, but says many will have simply left town without telling anyone.

A Canterbury Medical Officer of Health is urging Cantabrians to be extremely vigilant with their hygiene, to stop the outbreak of disease.

Alistair Humphrey says people must wash their hands or use hand sanitiser if they have no water.

He says while there have been no reports of disease, it is early days.

Dr Humphrey says if people do get sick they should keep washing their hands so the illness does not spread to other people in their homes.

The Christchurch Mayor, Bob Parker, has pleaded again for motorists to stay off the main roads around the city.

He says teams need to begin clearing silt from those roads so emergency and earthquake recovery vehicles can get through quickly.

The Defence Minister, Wayne Mapp, says the situation in the town of Lyttleton, which was badly damaged in the quake, remains dire.

He says the population is relying heavily on the navy for food.

The leader of the country's 40 biggest companies will discuss with the Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance this afternoon how they can best contribute to the quake recovery work.

The chairman of the group is Fonterra's chief executive, Andrew Ferrier, who says it may be that cash donations such as those begun by his firm are the most effective help business can offer.

Andrew Ferrier says in addition to a one million dollar donation by Fonterra, the company is matching donations by its own staff and farmers.

Air New Zealand says it has had to delay some international passengers in order to transport search and rescue teams to Christchurch.

The company's chief executive, Rob Fyfe, says the airline has flown teams in from Australia and the US and will soon bring in another from Britain.

Mr Fyfe says the disruption to passengers has been minimal.

The president of the Principals Federation says Christchurch schools are likely to remain shut for longer than the week imposed.

Peter Simpson says schools that managed to escape damage in last year's quake have not been spared this time.

He also says reopening schools will also depend on things like how soon after the quake staff feel they face classes again.

Papua New Guinea's High Commission in Wellington says all PNG nationals in Christchurch they are aware of have been accounted for and are safe.

Samoa's Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Apia says it has had no requests for help.

A spokesperson says Samoan students at the University of Canterbury have been contacted, and are all fine.

The Cook Islands High Commission has also not had any requests for help.

Foreign Affairs in Honiara has received no information about Solomon Islanders in Christchurch, but is expecting to hear this afternoon.

The Tuvalu Consulate says there is a small Tuvalu community of about 10 families in the area and they are all fine.

Tonga's High Commission says it has received no reports of anyone from the community missing, and it has had contact from students who are well and safe.

The vice president of the Tonga Canterbury Community Trust says although his organisation's still checking on Tongan people living in earthquake-hit Christchurch, he believes most are fine.

Petelo Moale says the community's spread all over the city but some people living in the Brighton and Aranui areas have badly damaged homes.

He says when he drove around those areas yesterday many of them had already left.

"The roads over there is not very good. It's big bumping and got holes on the road there yesterday, we were taking the truck there, the car can't go there, you need a four wheel drive to drive around there. So some of us today will do the same again, doing the rounds again to check up those we never see them yesterday. But some other Tongans, we not know where they are so we going to find it out from the other people where they are to try and see if they are all right."

The Tonga Canterbury Community Trust's Petelo Moale.