Searchers find no bodies in Christchurch Cathedral

12:31 am on 6 March 2011

Recovery teams have completed searching the Christchurch Cathedral and have found no bodies there.

The workers removed rubble right down to the building's foundation in their search for the bodies that were expected to be there.

Superintendent Sam Hoyle told a media briefing on Saturday night that it remains a mystery why it was thought 20 or 22 people may have been caught up in the cathedral's collapse.

He says some people reported missing will be alive and well somewhere.

But Superintendant Hoyle says despite not finding anyone in the rubble of the cathedral the death toll is likely to remain in the low 200s.

The official toll is currently 165, following the discovery of two more bodies at the Canterbury Television building on Friday, police say 38 of the bodies have been identified so far.

Superintendant Sandra Manderson told Morning Report that recovery teams are elated to have cleared the cathedral site and to have found no further bodies.

Prime Minister John Key says he is "absolutely thrilled" by the news.

He says CCTV footage backs up the result of the formal physical search.

Cathedral's dean moved to tears

The dean of the Cathedral, the Very Reverend Peter Beck, says he burst into tears when he got a phone call at 1am from a search and rescue officer telling him no bodies had been found.

"It was just astonishing, I was just speechless at that news," he says.

Dean Beck says he had been expecting he might have to go to the site to pray for the dead.

He says he does not know the origin of the widely reported figure of 22 either.

Teams searched the immediate environs of the cathedral on Saturday.

Civil defence says that search has been completed and no bodies have been found.