New Zealand May Seek More Recovery Help After Christchurch Quake

February 25, 2011

By Chris Bourke and Tracy Withers -Bloomberg News

New Zealand may seek additional help to find more than 200 missing people in Christchurch following a 6.3-magnitude earthquake as search-and-rescue efforts in the nation’s second-largest city enter a fifth day.

“We will be needing more help before this is over,” Foreign Minister Murray McCully told reporters yesterday. “No country can have on hand the sort of expert resources in the area of urban search and rescue which would enable it to cope with the scope of the quake we saw.”

About 500 search-and-rescue workers are operating in Christchurch, including teams fromAustralia, the U.S., Taiwan, Japan and Singapore. A team of 10 rescuers from China and the remainder of a 55-strong U.K. team joined the search yesterday, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs & Trade.

Rescuers have recovered 113 bodies following the Feb. 22 temblor. Some 228 people are missing, according to the Civil Defense department. Many foreigners were caught in the quake, including students at an English language school, McCully said.

“You’ve now got what is looking like a very significant fatality toll,” Prime Minister John Key said in an interview with Television New Zealand yesterday. “That is really unnerving people and rightfully so.”

Rescue workers from Japan were helping in recovery efforts at the Canterbury Television building where a number of Japanese students attended the King’s Education school. Twenty-one Chinese students are missing, with eight of the unaccounted buried in the CTV building,China Central Television reported earlier this week, citing local police.

International Concern

“There are an awful lot of people around the world who are deeply concerned about loved ones,” Police Superintendent Dave Cliff told reporters yesterday. “Let them know where you are and that you’re safe.”

Christchurch residents are bracing for more aftershocks, which threaten to topple buildings already weakened. The city has been shaken by dozens of aftershocks since the initial quake and may experience more temblors greater than magnitude 5 in coming days, according to the Civil Defense website.

On the streets of Christchurch yesterday, piles of silt forced up by a process where soil loses its strength after violent shaking were stacked meters high awaiting collection.

“There may be four or five times as much silt on the streets of Christchurch today as there was in September”, Brendan Burns, a Labor Party parliamentarian who represents the Christchurch Central electorate, said in an interview yesterday.

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