Hope fades in quake-hit Christchurch, NZ, for those missing (VIDEO)


Neighbors check on a damaged house on Cashel Street on Feb. 25, 2011, in Christchurch, New Zealand. The death toll has risen to 113 and the hope for finding survivors is fading as rescuers search through debris for over 200 still missing following a 6.3 magnitude earthquake that struck the city on Tuesday.


Hannah Johnston

Searches continued Friday for the hundreds still missing after a 6.3-magnitude earthquake that demolished parts of Christchurch, New Zealand.

And relatives desperate for news of loved ones missing after Tuesday's quake asked officials Friday why it was taking so long to identify bodies pulled from the debris.

The official death toll, meanwhile, continued to climb — it stood at 113 early Friday, and officials said that no one had been pulled out alive since an initial 70 rescues from collapsed buildings in the first 25 hours.

View the GlobalPost slideshow on the quake aftermath.

Rescuers extended their search on Friday to shattered houses close to the epicenter of the quake. According to Reuters, teams from Britain and the United States joined rescuers from Japan, Taiwan and Australia in searching residential areas hardest hit in the country's second-biggest city.

Fears of a disease outbreak from contaminated water and broken sewage services forced the closure of an emergency center and relocation of more than 100 people to another center outside the city of 400,000, where a night curfew remains in place.

Prime Minister John Key has said emergency operations would shift from rescuing survivors to body recovery, and that finding anyone alive would be a "miracle," despite the participation of hundreds of people reportedly going building to building using sound detectors, thermal imaging equipment and cameras.

Many of those on the list of missing were thought to be inside the six-story Canterbury TV (CTV) building when it collapsed. Authorities said there was no hope that anyone under the rubble could still be alive. 

The building housed the King's Education college, which teaches English to students from across Asia. The school did not identify up to 90 missing students by nationality — but most of the names on a list provided by the college appeared to be Japanese, Chinese, South Korean or Thai, according to VOA.

A New Zealand website — Stuff.com — said one young Chinese woman managed to send a text to her family in Guangzhou saying she was trapped in the building. She has not been heard from since.

Many relatives of the missing arrived at Christchurch airport on Friday, including about 20 from Japan, who were quickly  put on a bus by embassy officials.

Canterbury district police commander Dave Cliff said 16 to 22 bodies were believed to be trapped in the rubble of the city's Holy Cross Cathedral, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported.

Meanwhile, a 5-month-old boy, Baxtor Gowland, born two weeks after the first earthquake rocked Christchurch in September, was named the youngest confirmed victim of Tuesday's quake.

Southern New Zealand has been hit by a series of quakes since Sept. 4 when a 7.1-magnitude temblor struck the area. There were no deaths from that quake, which struck deeper below ground and farther away from Christchurch.

Tuesday's earthquake was part of the "aftershock sequence" from the September earthquake, the U.S. Geological Survey said.

It struck hit close to the surface of the earth just before 1 p.m. local time as the New Zealand south island city was at its busiest.

Civil Defense Minister John Carter said Thursday that the last "live rescue" of a survivor had been about 3 p.m. on Wednesday, according to the New Zealand Herald. That was the "miracle" rescue of Ann Bodkin, who was discovered trapped in a tiny space beneath her desk in a collapsed building 26 hours after the earthquake struck.

Carter said search and rescue workers in Christchurch were doing an "amazing, outstanding job." The search had shifted to places like alleyways, where people might have been trapped by falling rubble as they went to and from lunch on Tuesday.

Christchurch mayor Bob Parker said Thursday that emergency workers would not be giving up the search of buildings in the downtown area and suburbs, despite the announced focus on body recovery.

"We're not giving up, we're putting more people in," Parker said. "We're doing more all the time. And then out in the other parts of the city and in the central city it's [about] getting water to people, getting the electricity back as quickly as we can, getting the [portable toilets] in, because we're not going to have waste water systems working well for quite some time."

Footage of the New Zealand earthquake was caught CCTV in Christchurch shops.

— Freya Petersen