Christchurch quake death toll rises as ruins probed

February 25, 2011

In the New Zealand city named after a place of faith, churches
shattered by a 6.3-magnitude earthquake were still yielding up their
dead days after the February 22 temblor as clergy and parishioners in
Christchurch grieved and searched for safe places to worship.

The
death toll reached 154 on Feb­ruary 28, with at least 50 people missing
and hundreds injured. About 600 search and rescue workers looked for
survivors in the central city, where several major office buildings were
completely de­stroyed, according to media reports. Estimated damage is
$10 billion.

Rescue workers started the grim task of removing
bodies from (Anglican) ChristChurch Cathedral as hopes of finding
survivors faded, according to press reports and Anglican Taonga, a
publication of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and
Polynesia. A camera lowered into the damaged nave by workers showed no
signs of life. The cathedral's spire crumbled in the quake, collapsing
into a stone tower.

"No sound, nothing," said one rescuer. As many
as 22 people are believed to have been buried in the rubble, but
cathedral staff were safe. The church and spire have been a major
visitor attraction.

Since many other churches were rendered
inaccessible, a range of worship options being considered included
schools and open-air meetings. "The bishop is working on that at the
moment," said a spokes­person for Anglican bishop Vic­toria Matthews.

The
Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament, the city's biggest Catholic church,
was damaged beyond repair, and mass was being celebrated at the nearby
cathedral college hall. Some Presbyterian and Uniting congregations were
unable to meet due to extensive damage to church buildings and to
surrounding roads, as well as continuing disruption to power and water
supplies.
—ENInews