Quake rescue hopes dim

Hundreds of
foreign rescuers have joined exhausted New Zealand teams in an increasingly
desperate search of quake-shattered buildings in central Christchurch as time
runs out to find survivors buried under rubble.

Christchurch Mayor
Bob Parker said the quake-prone city now faced hard decisions on rebuilding its
heart.

“We are not
going to walk away from this place,” Parker told New Zealand television.
“We may have to level entire blocks in some places.”

The Director of
New Zealand’s Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management, John Hamilton,
has said rescue teams have a window of only two or three days to find people
after Tuesday’s 6.3-magnitude earthquake.

Seventy-five
people have been confirmed dead, but that toll was expected to rise with more
than 300 people missing in the country’s second-biggest city.

It was New
Zealand’s most deadly natural disaster for 80 years, and one estimate said the
damage could cost $12 billion.

To avoid more
deaths and curb crime, police and the military placed an overnight curfew on
the central business district, with soldiers patrolling in armoured personnel
carriers as aftershocks rattled the unstable centre.

Authorities also
placed an exclusion zone around the hotel, which teetered near collapse,
threatening nearby buildings.

“If the
Hotel Grand Chancellor falls, and three engineers say it is a significant risk,
that will be dramatic, a domino effect in the central city of other unstable
buildings. It will be a major disaster,” said police Superintendent Dave
Cliff.

Rescue teams had to
perform amputations to free some of the 120 survivors pulled from the wreckage
of the tremor, which was the second strong quake to hit the historic tourist
city in five months.