OCEANIA/NEW ZEALAND - After days of uninterrupted search, now focus on the recovery of corpses, 200 still missing

Monday, 28 February 2011

Christchurch (Agenzia Fides) - “'It is like a war zone' is how more than one reporter has described the streets of Christchurch; others say they just cannot find the words to communicate the widespread destruction,” says Fr Paul Shannahan, sm, National Director of the PMS in New Zealand in a statement sent to Fides.
“It is Sunday morning on a summer day here in the capital,” writes Fr Shannahan. “I just celebrated Mass for the victims of the earthquake in the Wellington Cathedral. All of New Zealand is horrified as are the people watching from all around the world. The images shown on television speak for themselves. The international rescue teams have not given up hope of finding some people alive but with no live rescues for four days the operation is now moving to recovering the dead.
To date 146 bodies have been transferred to temporary morgues where 164 identification specialists are trying to prove the true ID of each person; with over 20 nationalities among the dead it is complicating their task. Up to another 200 are missing. Over 20 bodies are still under the rubble of the Anglican Cathedral. Rescue team can see bodies but recovery is going on in the midst of ongoing after quakes and the danger of falling masonry,” continues Fr Shannahan.
“Help is coming from all directions. The Australian Government has donated $5,000,000. Over 250 Australian police have begun working alongside local police. Red Cross and Salvation Army personal along with local officials and medical teams are attending to the injured and hosts of greatly traumatised citizens. Canterbury farmers have been welcomed with their big machinery to lend a hand in rescue work and in clearing the streets of the mile square business district which is a 'no go area'. The Catholic Bishop of the city, Bishop Barry Jones, has directed that there be no Masses in parish churches until it is proven they are safe to use. A number have been ruined and his 100 years old block and marble cathedral has been badly damaged and could well be beyond repair.
Thousands of residents have fled the city because their homes are destroyed or uninhabitable or just because they are too stressed to stay on in the shaky city. Prayerful support has been coming from around the globe from Pope Benedict to Fr John and his students in Mali, Africa who are praying for the people of Chistchurch.” (AP) (28/2/2011 Agenzia Fides)