NZ toll reaches 145, identifying bodies becomes a concern

Natasha ChakuMelbourne, Feb 26 (PTI) Rescuers in New Zealand''squake-devastated Christchurch city recovered more bodies fromthe debris of flattened buildings today, taking the toll to145 which includes victims of 20 nationalities.

There have been no live rescues since Wednesday andgiven that the number of missing is above 200, the number ofdead is certain to rise.

The 6.8 magnitude quake that hit Christchurch onTuesday devastated the city and brought down severalbuildings, trapping scores of people under the rubble.

The official toll has risen to 145 this evening, theNew Zealand Herald reported.

"We expect that number to rise," Superintendent DavidCliff was quoted as saying.

He added that the number of missing people for whomthere are grave concerns remains at more than 200. Among thedead are people of 20 different nationalities.

Identification of bodies is emerging as another majorproblem for the rescuers, with the authorities relying mostlyon fingerprints or DNA.

"The biggest concern we have to returning the wrongloved one to the wrong family," Cliff said.

He said the frustration of the families, who had losttheir loved ones, was understandable but added that visualidentification of the bodies was not easy.

He also said that there remains a risk of masonrycoming off buildings and windows being smashed due toaftershocks.

Fire Service spokesman Paul Baxter said though freshbodies had been recovered, no new names have been listed.

"Where we have specific information around theidentity of a loved one, we will be doing everything humanlypossible to get that person to their loved ones as soon as wecan," he said.

The ongoing aftershocks were making rescue effort adifficult task, officials said.

They said that power has been restored to 82 per centof the city.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister John Key has called for theobserving of a two-minute silence on March 1 "as a sign ofunity for the people of Christchurch and out of respect forthose that lost their lives".

Key today met with the families of those who are stillmissing.

"They fear the worst but there is still a glimmer ofhope... The urban search and rescue crew made it clear thatthis was still very much a rescue effort, not a recovery," hesaid.

The government will announce an economic package onMonday.

"We are dealing with some very difficult circumstanceshere," he said. PTI

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