CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand – Hopes faded of finding more survivors today in the collapsed downtown towers of New Zealand’s quake-shattered Christchurch, as officials said the death toll rose to 98 with grave fears for many of the 226 missing.
Police said up to 120 bodies may still lie trapped in the tangled concrete and steel that was the Canterbury Television or CTV building, where dozens of students from Japan, Thailand, China and other Asian countries were believed buried when an English-language school collapsed along with other offices.
“The longer I don’t know what happened, the longer my agony becomes,” said Rolando Cabunilas, 34, a steel worker from the Philippines whose wife, Ivy Jane, 33, was on her second day of class at the school when the quake struck. She hasn’t been heard from since.
“I can’t describe it – it’s pain, anger, all emotions,” he said.
The official death toll from Tuesday’s 6.3-magnitude temblor stood at 98, Police Superintendent Dave Cliff said.
Rescue efforts so far had focused on the CTV building and a handful of other major office complexes that crumbled downtown, but work at those sites was shifting to the recovery of bodies while the remaining rescue efforts fanned out further afield.
The damaged buildings in and around Christchurch numbered in the thousands, including many of the older structures in Lyttelton, a port town just southeast of the city and closer to the quake’s epicenter.
“It was just horrific,” 63-year-old teacher’s assistant Kevin Fitzgerald said of Tuesday’s quake. “I thought the devil was coming up out of the earth.”