Quake death toll now 147

10:00 am on 28 February 2011

Police says the death toll from the Christchurch earthquake now stands at 147.

But Superintendent Dave Cliff told a news conference on Sunday that number is encompassed within the list of 200 people who are still missing.

He says that leaves about 50 people unaccounted for.

Police plan to release two more victims' names on Monday, bringing to eight the total number of people officially named as fatalities from the quake.

The search for more victims continues, with a British search and rescue team saying it has pulled four bodies from the Pyne Gould building over the weekend.

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

Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) says it made steady progress on Sunday at two more main sites it is scouring in the downtown area, one of them being the Canterbury Television (CTV) building.

USAR spokesperson Paul Baxter says crews are also burrowing into Christchurch Cathedral using special steel tubes.

He says access to the damaged Hotel Grand Chancellor is still difficult, but searchers and engineers are closely consulting on a plan to gain access.

No survivors have been found since Wednesday afternoon from the 6.3 magnitude earthquake that hit Christchurch on Tuesday.

A New Zealand search and rescue team worker, Mitchell Brown, says they are not giving up hope that people could be alive in the wreckage.

He says international experience shows there's a possibility that people could still be alive in the rubble of collapsed buildings.

Many from overseas among dead

Superintendent Cliff says 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 was 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 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," he said.

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.

Several arrests

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.

Electricity, water

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

Civil Defence says 65% of homes are connected to mains water and the city's waste water plant is running at about 35% capacity. It reminds people 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.

Fire risk warning

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 USAR 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 more than 52 road sections remain closed but generally most of the road network is open.

Civil Defence says people who do not need to be on the roads should stay off them.