27 Feb 2011

PM Key launches appeal after Christchurch earthquake

5:22 pm on 27 February 2011

The Prime Minister John Key has announced the launch of a worldwide appeal to raise funds to help the people of Christchurch rebuild their lives after the 6.3 magnitude quake on Tuesday.

The website to donate money is www.christchurchearthquakeappeal.govt.nz.

Mr Key says the funds will be used to help families experiencing hardship and for trauma and social services.

He says some of the money may also be used to help rebuild iconic buildings such as Christchurch Cathedral.

A similar appeal following the Victorian bushfires in Australia raised $389 million.

The Prime Minister says the fund will be complimentary to other established appeals such as those established by the Red Cross, Salvation Army and major trading banks.

The confirmed death toll increased to 146 on Sunday and police say there is a risk not all the dead would be able to be identified.

Search and rescue teams continued to scour the rubble of buildings that collapsed in the 6.3-magnitude earthquake on Tuesday, but no-one was found alive overnight on Saturday. It has been four days since any survivor was rescued.

A British search and rescue team pulled four bodies from the Pyne Gould building in 36 hours, but is still hoping for a miracle.

The head of the team, Peter Crooks, says members have located several more bodies, and are aware there are more.

No-one has been rescued alive from the rubble since Wednesday.

Superintendent Dave Cliff says more than 200 people are believed missing in the worst damaged parts of the city.

People from more than 20 countries are among the dead.

About 166 staff are working on victim identification and two more teams are on their way; one due to arrive from Thailand on Sunday and another from the United States on Monday, he says.

Superintendent Cliff says situations where there was intense fire, as there had been at the Canterbury Television (CTV) site, presented real difficulty and there is a risk not all those who died will be able to be identified.

"I don't want to pre-empt what will happen in respect to that, but we need to brace ourselves for the fact that that possibility does exist. We are not at that point yet, but it presents a risk."

Police hoped to release the name of at least one more victim on Sunday.

Superintendent Cliff says a large number of people from overseas have been reported missing but are most likely safe. He reiterated his plea for overseas visitors to contact their families or the Red Cross to confirm they are safe.

More than 50 relatives of Japanese citizens missing since the earthquake have arrived in New Zealand.

Superintendent Cliff says a member of police staff is still missing.

There are still reports of people masquerading as officials and Superintendent Cliff says anyone found doing so would be arrested.

Seven people were arrested on Saturday night for burglary, theft, assault, drink driving and impersonating an official.

A makeshift court in the Christchurch police station was hearing urgent cases, as court buildings have been shut since the earthquake.

St John Ambulance says two hoax calls about people injured and trapped in buildings have been sent to the emergency ambulance communications centre.

Water supplies remained cut to 55,000 properties on Sunday and Civil Defence says at least six reservoirs are too damaged to be used.

Christchurch mayor Bob Parker says 65% of homes are connected to mains water and the city's waste water plant is running at about 35% capacity. He reiterated that all water must be boiled, even if it comes out of a tap.

Civil Defence says reservoirs won't be refilled if there is a risk to surrounding properties from leaks.

Lines company Orion aims to get electricity restored to 95% of properties in Christchurch by next weekend.

Chief executive Roger Sutton says, however, that getting power restored to all 10,000 customers within the four avenues is more difficult because of the severely damaged buildings, and some properties may be without electricity for months.

By Sunday, 7000 buildings in the suburbs had been checked and officials aimed to get to 50,000 properties by the end of the week.

On Saturday, 105 buildings were declared unsafe out of the 4000 that had been visited by then.

Police say the cordon around the CBD is being secured with fencing, allowing more police staff to move out to badly-hit suburbs.

Five fires had broken out in the 24-hour period to Sunday morning, three of which were related to power being restored and could have been avoided, Paul Baxter of the Fire Service says. These fires had resulted in injuries to people.

Mr Baxter urged people to take extra care when turning power back on in their homes.

Ten bridges and 52 sections of road remain closed. The Lyttelton tunnel is open to residents only.