Hopes of finding quake survivors begin to fade

Rescue efforts in Christchurch complicated by poor weather and aftershocks as Prime Minister declares state of emergency

The full horrors of Tuesday's devastating earthquake in Christchurch were revealed yesterday as the death toll nudged up to 75 and some survivors were rescued after 24 hours buried beneath tonnes of rubble in New Zealand's second city.

The city centre remained sealed off last night as emergency teams battled fading hopes of rescuing more victims of the catastrophic earthquake. As the death toll increased following the 6.3-magnitude tremor, the Prime Minister, John Key, declared the country's first national state of emergency.

About 300 people are still missing, mostly in the ruined central business district, which was placed under military curfew. At the heart of the cordon, teams worked through the night to retrieve 22 people entombed in the rubble of the 130-year-old Christ Church Cathedral. Police predicted that 20 of them were likely to be dead.

Rescue efforts were complicated by poor weather and regular aftershocks, and were carried out beneath the ominous lean of the city's tallest building, the 27-storey, 70m-high Hotel Grand Chancellor. Emergency workers kept a wary eye on the slumping tower, which Mr Key warned threatened to "cause a mini earthquake and take out other buildings with it".

Four blocks away, prospects were bleak at the burning ruins of the four-storey Canterbury Television building, where 15 staff and 23 Japanese students from a neighbouring language school remained unaccounted for. It was feared that up to 100 people could be inside.

But there were moments of cheer. About 30 people were saved yesterday, including Ann Bodkin, who was pulled from the ruins of the Pyne Gould Corporation offices after nearly 26 hours. "The sun came out the moment she was removed from the building," said the Mayor of Christchurch, Bob Parker. "It was like God turned on the lights." At least 14 others were still trapped inside the building last night.

Elsewhere in the city of 380,000 people, disorder reigned, with roads destroyed and cars abandoned. Forty per cent of Christchurch was without power, and those with water were ordered to refrain from washing. Six alleged looters were arrested and on the radio and television, frazzled civic leaders sniped at seismologists for their failure to predict the disaster.

The airport was hectic with tourists being evacuated on emergency flights, and civilian and military reinforcements arriving to help. With accommodation at a premium, a prison was emptied and its inmates rehoused in another to make way for rescue workers.

Meanwhile, in welfare centres, hundreds gathered for shelter, bedding and food. Those whose homes had survived, such as student Hossein Nazari, 29, offered a room for strangers. "This was far, far stronger than the last one," he said, referring to Christchurch's 7.1-magnitude earthquake in September, which, though stronger, struck while the city slept, and left no casualties.

Henry Jaiswal, a civil defence co-ordinator, said it was hoped that many of the displaced would be absorbed into the community and put up by family and friends. But there was no real blueprint for how a disaster of this scale would play out.

Thomas Rummel watched rescue efforts on television, trying to reconcile the pictures with his own escape a day earlier. He was in his 16th-floor office when the quake hit. It knocked out power and destroyed the stairwell two floors below him, stranding 23 people on the building's top three floors.

A crane eventually winched Mr Rummel down from the roof, but not before he had endured four hours of jolting aftershocks, and witnessed many of the city's landmark buildings tumble down. "We saw the whole city around us," he said. "The cathedral was gone, Pyne Gould was gone. We saw it from all sides. We saw it all fall down."

'Like a horror movie'

* The sister and brother sat huddled yesterday on sodden grass, staring at the smouldering remains of an office tower that collapsed with their mother inside. They hadn't heard from Donna Manning since a powerful earthquake tore through Christchurch a day earlier, killing at least 75 people and leaving some 300 missing in the rubble. Still, there was hope.

"My mum is superwoman, she'd do anything," Manning's 18-year-old daughter Lizzy said, tears streaming down her face.

Just then, a police officer approached and knelt before Lizzy and her 15-year-old brother, Kent, in the rain. "I have some horrible news..." the officer began.

The teens' faces crumpled, and their father wrapped them in an embrace as the officer gently broke the news that their mother was presumed dead along with everyone else trapped inside the building.

* A construction manager who joined rescue efforts after the devastating earthquake described rescuers using a hacksaw to cut off a man's leg to free him after he was pinned under concrete.

Fred Haering says rescuers used sledgehammers and chainsaws to cut into the collapsed Pyne Gould Guinness building in Christchurch from the roof, slicing downwards through layers of sandwiched offices and finding bodies crushed under concrete slabs.

One man had a leg pinned under concrete, and a doctor administered medicine to deaden his pain. A fireman asked Haering for a hacksaw. Haering handed it over and tried to avert his eyes as the man's leg was sawn off, saving him from certain death.

Haering says: "It's a necessity of the game. How are you gonna get out?"

* Students from across Asia are feared among the dead in an office building that collapsed in the quake, with police saying yesterday they were "100 per cent certain" no one trapped was alive.

Survivors of the collapse at the Canterbury Television building described a scene "like out of a horror movie" and said they were worried about dozens of friends and colleagues whose fate was still unclear.

"As we were eating lunch, there was a major shaking, and suddenly the floor fell," 19-year-old Kento Okuda told Japan's Asahi Shimbun newspaper. Okuda was studying at King's Education language school inside the building along with more than a dozen other Japanese.

"Everyone around me was saying things like 'It hurts' as they fell downward," he said. "And then I realised I was in total darkness, with my right leg pinned by something so I couldn't move." Rescuers had to cut off his leg to free him. AP

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
i100 In this video, the late actor Leonard Nimoy explains how he decided to use the gesture for his character
Arts and Entertainment
Secrets of JK Rowling's Harry Potter workings have been revealed in a new bibliography
arts + ents
News
Robert De Niro has walked off the set of Edge of Darkness
news The Godfather Part II actor has an estimated wealth of over $200m
Arts and Entertainment
Fearne Cotton is leaving Radio 1 after a decade
radio The popular DJ is leaving for 'family and new adventures'
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Sauce Recruitment: Retail Planning Manager - Home Entertainment UK

salary equal to £40K pro-rata: Sauce Recruitment: Are you available to start a...

Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - London - up to £40,000

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Creative Front-End Developer - Claph...

Recruitment Genius: Product Quality Assurance Technologist - Hardline & Electric

£18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The role in this successful eco...

Ashdown Group: QA Tester - London - £30,000

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: QA Tester - London - £30,000 QA Tes...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower