PM challenged on walkabout in quake-hit areas

9:01 pm on 4 March 2011

Prime Minister John Key has been challenged over the earthquake response during a walkabout in Christchurch's badly-damaged eastern suburbs.

The 6.3-magnitude quake on 22 February has killed at least 163 people and caused extensive damage to buildings and homes.

There are few toilets in the suburb of Bexley and on Friday people wanted to know when relief is on the way.

Mr Key came to inspect progress in restoring power - but the complaints he heard were all about the lack of portaloos.

Mother-of-three Tracey Bolton says her nine-year-old daughter suffers from diabetes and needs to use the toilet often.

The Prime Minister took her number, but could not say when a portaloo may arrive.

He says there are 1000 portaloos across the city and Civil Defence has assured him that their distribution has been prioritised.

Another woman talked of belongings sitting in contaminated water because people have no storage left.

However, many were complimentary about the response from the authorities in such a demanding crisis.

Mr Key said he has sought assurances that every effort is going into the east of the city and is confident resources will be applied to that area as rapidly as is physically possible.

He said he understands the stress, but the huge focus of attention until now has been on whether people could be found alive.

Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker says up to 40% of homes in the eastern suburbs are now empty. The discovery was made by the more than 230 Civil Defence teams assessing homes and helping with welfare needs.

More portaloos ordered

Civil Defence national controller John Hamilton says more than 1000 of the portable toilets have been distributed, but supplies are stretched, so hundreds more have been ordered from the United States.

Mr Hamilton says thousands of chemical toilets are also being delivered, and another 20,000 of those have been ordered.