Aftershocks continue as death toll climbs

8:40 am on 26 February 2011

Aftershocks continue to rattle already frayed nerves in Christchurch, as the confirmed death toll from a devastating earthquake climbed to 113.

The sizeable shallow aftershocks ranging between 4.4 and 3.0 in magnitude were recorded close to the quake epicentre and continued throughout the night.

No further rescues have been made since Wednesday afternoon from buildings that collapsed in the 6.3-magnitude quake which hit the city at 12.51pm on Tuesday.

Civil Defence Minister John Carter said that, in all, 70 people had been rescued alive from collapsed buildings since the quake struck.

Search and rescue specialists scoured the inner-city on Friday with a particular focus on the Canterbury Television (CTV) building, the Pyne Gould Corporation building and the Christchurch Cathedral, where efforts have been hampered by rain, causing masonry to become more unstable.

The initial urban search and rescue search of the central business district is complete except for the area around the Hotel Grand Chancellor.

Of those injured in the quake, 11 were intensive care, Mr Carter said. The field hospital sent from Australia was expected to be in operation by lunchtime on Friday.

A dedicated police team is working through the list of missing people, which remains at about 200.

The head of the family liaison unit, Inspector Mark Harrison, says there have been cases when people have been reported missing several times and it is a matter of narrowing down the list.

Police are asking people from other countries who are visiting New Zealand to contact their families, whether they were in Christchurch or not.

Police have named two confirmed deaths on Friday. They are: Andrew Christian Ross Craig, 46, and Jeff Pelesa Sanft, 32, both of Christchurch.

Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker says thought has been given to staging a public memorial for victims, but such an event will have to wait until the immediate recovery operation is over.

Aftershocks 'biggest safety threat'

Ten international search rescue teams are on the ground, including a unit from China, Civil Defence Minister John Carter says. A team from the United States was expected to arrive later on Friday.

The head of the 65-strong British search and rescue team says the biggest safety threat to rescuers are the aftershocks.

Peter Crook says the team is equipped to stay for 10 days, but can be here longer if required. The team is also bringing 11 tonnes of heavy equipment which will be used to lift rubble and enable searchers to enter collapsed buildings.

Mr Crook says the team's last jobs were in Haiti and Indonesia, which differed from Christchurch in having no strong organisational structure on the ground.

Hotel Grand Chancellor shored up

The owner of the Hotel Grand Chancellor says engineers will try to brace the outside so search and rescue staff can search adjoining buildings.

The hotel is one of the tallest buildings and was displaced by half a metre in the quake and dropped by 1 metre on one side.

A 90-metre cordon was established around the hotel on Friday as it is listing and could collapse. A spokesperson for the hotel says it has been rotating on its foundations.

Civil Defence has told him the building will be temporarily shored up, so the surrounding buildings can be checked for survivors.

The last guests were removed from the hotel about 11pm on Tuesday evening but the building did not start moving until the next day.

Pyne Gould building collapse 'inexplicable'

Police have said there may be 20 people unnaccounted for in the collapsed Pyne Gould Corporation building.

Pyne Gould Corporation chief executive Jeff Greenslade says the collapse of the structure is inexplicable.

The building was re-certified after the September earthquake, Mr Greenslade says, and again, at the company's request, following the Boxing Day aftershock. He says it cleared the certification process. The company is a tenant in the building.

Teams continue in suburbs

Teams of structural engineers have begun checking properties and have issued 10 medical centres and pharmacies with red stickers, meaning they are unsafe and must be closed.

A total of nearly 200 buildings had been issued with red stickers by Friday night - including 96 homes in Christchurch City and 90 buildings in Lyttelton.

The number of teams checking on people and houses in suburbs doubled on Friday to 80.

Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker says emergency operation teams are heading to suburban shopping malls to ensure pharmacies and medical centres have the supplies they need.

A southerly front brought bringing rain to the city on Friday, and overnight temperatures of about 11°C were forecast. Conditions were expected to improve at the weekend.