75 have been confirmed dead after the earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand, while 300 are still missing – meaning that the death toll is likely to rise. Rescue efforts to find those buried in the rubble continued through the night.
Central Christchurch has been devastated by Tuesday’s 6.3-magnitude earthquake and emergency services have cordoned off the area as a crew of 500 hunt for anyone still alive in the collapsed buildings.
Rescue teams performed amputations to free some of the 120 earthquake survivors rescued last night but many more are still buried beneath concrete and twisted metal and hopes of getting to them in time are fading.
“We are getting texts and tapping sounds from the living and that’s our focus at the moment,” police commander Russell Gibson said on Radio New Zealand.
However Police Superintendent Russell Gibson warned that the toll was certain to rise.
Prime Minister John Key declared a national emergency, confirming that 75 people are dead and a further 300 people still missing in New Zealand’s worst natural disaster for 80 years.
Christchurch officials have urged people to stay at home unless travel is essential – aiming to keep the area clear for rescue workers to continue their hunt for survivors.
Police superintendent Dave Cliff warned of “criminal elements” taking advantage of the disaster and announced a strict exclusion zone around the city centre from 6.30pm.
There have been miraculous survival stories – a woman resident from the Pyne Gould Corporation building walked out unscathed 24 hours after the quake.
However other stories are tragic. One Christchurch resident described seeing aw a woman die with her baby in her arms when she was hit by falling debris in Cashel St Mall. Only the baby survived.
Much of Christchurch is still without power or water leading to fears over public health. The suburbs of Sumner and Lyttleton have been particularly hard hit and remain difficult to reach.
The airport has reopened for both domestic and international flights and many foreign nationals are now departing.
If you’re concerned about loved ones in NZ, here are the numbers to call.
From NZ: 0800 REDCROSS (0800 733 276
From the UK: +64 7 850 2199