No bodies found in Christchurch cathedral

Searchers today declared that no one had died in the rubble of Christchurch's cathedral - a rare piece of good news in the final days of a grim recovery operation following an earthquake that devastated New Zealand's second-largest city and killed at least 165 people.

Authorities had feared that as many as 22 people were inside the Christchurch Cathedral's stone bell tower when it was toppled by a magnitude 6.3 quake on 22 February.



Police Superintendent Sandra Manderson said urban search and rescue teams had completed their excavation of the area and confirmed that no one was trapped inside what had been a popular tourist attraction.



"Urban search and rescue (teams) have cleared the whole area ... and they've found no bodies," she told National Radio.



The Dean of Christchurch Rev Peter Beck has been advised and was "absolutely elated", she said.



Manderson said she hoped that the surprise good news would bring down the estimated death toll of the disaster from as high as 240 to around 220. She said she was investigating what the estimate of 22 people in the tower had been based on.



She also announced that the confirmed death toll had risen to 165 after two bodies were recovered yesterday from one of the worst-hit structures, the Canterbury Television building.



Beck said that from the time the earthquake devastated Christchurch's city centre on a busy weekday afternoon, he suspected that there would be multiple casualties under the ruins of the 130-year-old Anglican tower.



"Straight after the quake, a young woman was in tears and I gave her a big hug. She was telling me that she had just rushed out of the tower just before the quake and there were people behind her," Beck said today.



"Then you get other anecdotal stories from people saying they saw people in the viewing platform (of the tower), so that is the kind of stuff that was going around," he said.



Authorities officially ended the search and rescue phase of the recovery operation in Christchurch on Thursday, saying there was no chance that anyone else would be pulled alive from the debris of the quake that demolished or irreparably damaged one-third of the buildings in the city centre. Police have said the search for bodies will not continue much longer.



Just 26 of the 165 bodies have been publicly identified. Authorities say the identification process is slow and painstaking because of the extreme nature of the injuries caused to some of those caught in collapsing buildings.



An estimated 70,000 Christchurch residents - one-fifth of the 350,000 population - have left the city since the quake, which cut power, water and sewage systems for large parts of the city. Most were expected to return as the city recovers.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Environmental Adviser - Maternity Cover

£37040 - £43600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's export credit agency a...

Recruitment Genius: CBM & Lubrication Technician

£25000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a compreh...

Recruitment Genius: Care Worker - Residential Emergency Service

£16800 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to join an organ...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Landscaper

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In the last five years this com...

Day In a Page

The long walk west: they fled war in Syria, only to get held up in Hungary – now hundreds of refugees have set off on foot for Austria

They fled war in Syria...

...only to get stuck and sidetracked in Hungary
From The Prisoner to Mad Men, elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series

Title sequences: From The Prisoner to Mad Men

Elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series. But why does the art form have such a chequered history?
Giorgio Armani Beauty's fabric-inspired foundations: Get back to basics this autumn

Giorgio Armani Beauty's foundations

Sumptuous fabrics meet luscious cosmetics for this elegant look
From stowaways to Operation Stack: Life in a transcontinental lorry cab

Life from the inside of a trucker's cab

From stowaways to Operation Stack, it's a challenging time to be a trucker heading to and from the Continent
Kelis interview: The songwriter and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell and crying over potatoes

Kelis interview

The singer and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell
Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea