Fruitless day for rescue teams in quake city

3:54 am on 25 February 2011

It has been a fruitless day for rescue teams searching the rubble of collapsed buildings in Christchurch following a powerful earthquake.

Many buildings in the central business district have been severely damaged by the 6.3-magnitude quake that struck at 12.51pm on Tuesday.

Police confirmed on Friday that 102 people are now known to have died, and said on Thursday that 226 people remain unaccounted for. The last person to be found alive was on Wednesday.

Prime Minister John Key said there are no survivors from the CTV building in the central city and that overseas victims are among the dead.

Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker said it has been a "dreadful day" for rescue teams, and that about 75% of the city had now been covered by searchers on Thursday.

However, no survivor has been pulled from the wreckage of collapsed buildings, including the CTV and Pyne Gould buildings, since Wednesday afternoon.

Mr Parker says rumours of survivors being found alive in rubble on Thursday are not true. The search and rescue operation is happening in a "pressure cooker environment" and it easy for onlookers to get false hope, he says.

More search and rescue crews were due to arrive from overseas on Thursday night joining teams already working from Japan, Singapore, Taiwan and Australia.

The Taskforce Leader of the urban search and rescue team in Christchurch Paul Burns says there were about 400 search and rescue people on the ground on Thursday, and there will more than 600 later on Friday morning.

No survivors in CTV building - PM

Prime Minister John Key said on Thursday there are no survivors from the CTV building. Work had resumed there earlier on Thursday after there were concerns that the nearby Hotel Grand Chancellor might collapse.

Police estimate up to 120 people were in the devastated building which housed a language school, a regional television station and a nursing school.

The language school, Kings Education, said on Thursday it feared nine staff and 37 students students remained inside. A further 35 students are unaccounted for. The school has students enrolled from Japan, China, the Philippines, Thailand, Korea and Saudi Arabia.

Fifteen of Canterbury Television's 25 staff are unaccounted for.

Superintendent Dave Cliff says there is no chance of survival at the site, but an urban search and rescue team from Japan is assigned specifically to that site because of the number of Japanese nationals who were at the building.

Japanese deputy consul-general Mitsuko Ito in Auckland says up to 27 Japanese nationals are missing in Christchurch and believes many of them were in the building.

The Philippines embassy suspects 11 Filipino students are in the building, based on information from the Ministry of Education and families looking for those missing.

Pyne Gould building

An Australian specialist search and rescue team resumed work at the Pyne Gould Corporation building on Thursday after structural reinforcements were put in place to make it safe.

The team has been using specialist seismic listening equipment to detect any signs of life in the collapsed buildings.

Superintendent Dave Lewis says his team had to stop work on Thursday morning after engineers found cracks in a concrete slab. However, engineers have put shoring around the front of the building allowing them to go back in.

A woman was rescued from the building about 3pm on Wednesday, but there have been no further rescues since.

The building is becoming even more unstable as aftershocks continue, forcing teams to reappraise how the rescue effort will be conducted. Two jolts of magnitude 4 or more rattled Christchurch on Thursday.

Police have said there may be 20 people unaccounted for in the Pyne Gould building.

Hopes dashed at other buildings

Earlier on Thursday, hopes were dashed that there might be survivors in two other buildings in central Christchurch.

Search and rescue teams investigated buildings in Gloucester Street and Chancery Lane after reports there had been signs of life, but found no evidence of life.

Police say there are conflicting reports of the numbers that may be missing in the badly damaged Christchurch Cathedral, which has lost its spire.