Saturday, February 26, 2011

New Zealand Quake Toll at 145

Christchurch earthquake pictures
New Zealand's premier said the Christchurch quake may be the country's worst disaster ever, as officials raised the toll to 145 dead and more than 200 missing while giving a grim prognosis for the city's downtown.

Engineers and planners said the city's decimated central area may be completely unusable for months to come and that at least a third of the buildings must be razed and rebuilt after last Tuesday's 6.3-magnitude quake.

Prime Minister John Key said the government would announce an aid package Monday for an estimated 50,000 people who will be out of work for months due to the closure of downtown. Key, who spent some of the afternoon talking to families who lost loved ones in the disaster, called for two minutes of silence on Tuesday to remember both the victims and the ordeal of the survivors.

"This may be New Zealand's single-most tragic event," Key said Saturday.

The death toll remained at 145 early Sunday, with no more bodies retrieved overnight, Police Inspector Russell Gibson said.

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