New Zealand quake death toll continues to rise

At least four Britons are now thought to have been killed in the the New Zealand earthquake, with the ever-increasing death toll expected to surpass the 200 mark in the coming days.

Police have so far confirmed the deaths of 148 people, but many more are still believed to be entombed under the collapsed buildings of the South Island city of Christchurch.

Two British holidaymakers hurt in the magnitude 6.3 quake remained in hospital today, British High Commissioner to New Zealand, Vicki Treadell, said.

However, the male and female, who suffered serious but not life-threatening injuries, are expected to be fit enough to fly home later in the week. At least one Briton is still missing.

A British taskforce of disaster victim identification (DVI) is due to arrive in Christchurch this afternoon to help identify the dead, a process which has been hindered by the catastrophic injuries suffered by many of the victims.

The High Commission said the eight-strong team, which includes a pathologist, odontologist and fingerprint expert, will assist experts from New Zealand and Australia.

Ms Treadell said: "We understand that there are four British nationals dead and are working closely with local authorities on identification.

"We are in touch with next of kin who are our priority and also working with them so formal identification can take place."

The commission has dealt with 300 Britons affected by last Tuesday's disaster, issuing 60 emergency passports.

"Many of them are now on their way home but our teams on the ground are still doing the rounds, visiting hospitals and attending family briefings," added Ms Treadall.

"We are working through the list of missing and cross referencing with information we have been given from the UK."

Two members of the DVI taskforce will arrive in the South Island city today, before being joined by the rest of their colleagues later in the week.

So far, only one of the British victims' names has been confirmed.

Gregory Tobin, 25, a chef, from Tadcaster, North Yorkshire, had been on a round-the-world trip and was believed to have been working temporarily at a garage in Christchurch when the devastation struck.

Chartered accountant Phil Coppeard, 41, from Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk, who emigrated to the country in November with his wife Suzanne Craig, was travelling into town on a bus when the tremors ripped through the city earlier this week. He has been missing ever since.

A multi-national team of more than 600 rescuers from New Zealand, the UK, the US, China, Taiwan, Japan, Mexico and Australia has spent the past six days scouring the city for survivors.

However, hopes are beginning to fade after another day passed with their efforts yielded only bodies.

More than 50 people remain unaccounted for however, according to New Zealand officials.

A 61-strong British specialist rescue team arrived in the city on Friday to help search for survivors among the flattened buildings.

Deployed after New Zealand accepted an offer of help from the British Government, they have been working among the ruins of the Pyne Gould Corporation building in the centre of the city, using acoustic listening devices to pick up any sound of life.

Peter Crook, who is leading the UK Fire Service International Search and Rescue Team on the ground, said it was possible survivors could yet be pulled from the rubble.

But he admitted the chances were growing ever slimmer.

The PGC building has had to be demolished to enable them to reach the bodies, as they were so deeply embedded in the debris.

"There could still be people alive in there," Mr Crook said. "It's obviously a remote chance but we still are in rescue mode. We know there's lots of bodies in there too.

"There could be voids where people could survive if they happened to be in the right place when the building came down but it seems that some of the people in this situation have been rescued in the first few days."

Although there have been "no positive signs" of survivors among the wreckage lately, the team is getting closer to the spaces where it is thought some could remain.

Mr Crook added: "The reality is we're not too hopeful but we're certainly not discounting the possibility of finding survivors."

Between 15 and 20 people are believed to be missing inside the ruins of the building.

The British team expects to remain on the ground for several more days.

Prime minister John Key has launched a Christchurch earthquake appeal, a global fundraiser for the recovery effort.

The appeal supplements those already established, including ones organised by the Red Cross and the Salvation Army, he said.

Donations can be made at http://www.christchurchearthquakeappeal.govt.nz

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
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

Ashdown Group: Data Scientist - London - £50,000 + bonus

£35000 - £50000 per annum + generous bonus: Ashdown Group: Business Analytics ...

Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Development) - Kingston

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Dev...

Ashdown Group: Editor-in-chief - Financial Services - City, London

£60000 - £70000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Ashdown Group: Junior Application Support Analyst - Fluent German Speaker

£25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A global leader operating...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power