Tuesday, February 22, 2011

'No chance' of survivors at quake-hit TV site

Rescuers admit there is no hope of finding survivors in the CTV building. (Reuters : Simon Baker)     

'No chance' of survivors at quake-hit TV site

New Zealand authorities have abandoned all hope of finding survivors in the collapsed Canterbury TV building in central Christchurch, adding it was likely foreign students would be among the dead.

The number of confirmed dead remains at 75 and more than 300 are missing after yesterday's 6.3-magnitude earthquake.

Police say they are 100 per cent certain those trapped in the CTV building, including a group of overseas students, are dead.

Rescuers earlier gave hope to families as they pulled office worker Ann Bodkin from the flattened Pyne Gould building.

Ms Bodkin, who was lying under her desk, emerged wrapped in blankets to applause from rescue workers who have been poring through the building's mangled remains.

One Australian resident has been confirmed dead and grave fears are held for three others that were known to be in the area.

Officials are trying to find a woman who had phoned a Melbourne media organisation from under the collapsed PGG building.

Much of Christchurch remains without power and water, and police have established a night-time curfew for quake-affected areas of the city. There have been more than 110 aftershocks since yesterday's quake.

Rescue crews have been pulled out of parts of the CBD and cleared a two-block exclusion zone amid fears the 26-storey Grand Chancellor Hotel may collapse.

Within the exclusion rests the remains of the CTV building, where reports said up to 50 people may have been trapped.

Local media is reporting that 24 people have been pulled from the rubble there but that seven people had died and at least 22 others were missing.

Police operations commander Dave Lawry says officials have had no response from those trapped inside for the past 10 hours.

"This particular site, CTV site, had a number of overseas students in it and my heart goes out to those families that are away knowing that some of their children, family, have probably been killed in this incident," he said.

"We just want to put a promise out to you that we will do the very best we can for your people."

'No chance'

Mr Lawry said the building, which housed the King's Education College English language school on its third floor, was deteriorating and there were fears it could collapse further, endangering rescuers.

"At a certain point I am not going to risk my staff for people who I believe there is no chance of survivability," he said.

He said it was a "sad fact" that emergency personnel were now moving resources from the building and would be redirecting them to other sites where there was a better chance of finding survivors.

Mr Lawry gave no details on the possible nationalities of those trapped inside the CTV building, but at least 23 Japanese are among the 300 missing after the 6.3-magnitude quake struck at lunchtime on Tuesday.

On its website King's Education College said the largest number of its students came from the Philippines, Japan, South Korea, China and Thailand.

Six people have been arrested for looting.

Superintendent Dave Cliff says the central city would be a restricted access zone from 6.30pm on Wednesday, meaning only those involved in the rescue effort would be allowed access.

"That's also about keeping out the criminal element, who we know will try and take advantage," he said.

"We have made about six arrests today for theft and burglary around the central city."

- ABC/wires