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
Voices
voices
News
general electionThis quiz matches undecided voters with the best party for them
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen starred in the big screen adaptation of Austen's novel in 2005
tvStar says studios are forcing actors to get buff for period roles
News
Prince William and his wife Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge show their newly-born daughter, their second child, to the media outside the Lindo Wing at St Mary's Hospital in central London, on 2 May 2015.
news
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: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Recruitment Consultant / Account Manager - Surrey / SW London

£40000 per annum + realistic targets: Ashdown Group: A thriving recruitment co...

Ashdown Group: Part-time Payroll Officer - Yorkshire - Professional Services

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful professional services firm is lo...

Day In a Page

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
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before