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Christchurch: Bodies 'may never be recovered'

New Zealand came to a standstill yesterday as people marked the moment a deadly earthquake shattered the country's second-biggest city, Christchurch, a week ago.

As anguished family members visited collapsed buildings where bodies of their loved ones are trapped, officials warned that some remains may never be recovered from the rubble.

"The mood was sombre and it was very emotional for them," Superintendent Dave Cliff said. Five more bodies have been pulled from the rubble by recovery teams, he added, taking the confirmed death toll to 160. Many more remain missing after the magnitude 6.3 quake, and the final tally is likely to be 240.

"It may not be possible to retrieve bodies," Supt Cliff said. No one has been pulled alive from the rubble since 26 hours after the quake.