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Rediff.com  » News » NZ quake death toll rises to 133; rescue ops on

NZ quake death toll rises to 133; rescue ops on

February 25, 2011 16:20 IST

Rescuers pulled out more bodies from the debris in their grim search for the missing in a quake-devastated Christchurch where death toll mounted to 113, and incidents of theft and looting were also reported.

Rescue work was in full swing for the 228 missing people in Tuesday's 6.5 magnitude earthquake that shook the New Zealand city and brought down many buildings.

There were little signs of life as rescue workers sifted through the rubble, and found more and more dead bodies taking the toll to 113.

"These are very, very dark days for New Zealand," Prime Minister John Key said as hopes for finding more survivors faded with time.

"We need a bit a bit of luck to try and find a few people that may still have survived this earthquake and are still trapped in those buildings," he told Radio New Zealand.

Latest reports from the scene said that people were allegedly posing as officials, stealing and looting in the quake-struck Christchurch, amidst the tragedy

Police said crime was becoming an increasing problem for authorities on the ground.

Around 300 Australian police officers are working across the city and trying to bring the rising rates of theft and domestic violence under control and Australians could be among the arrested.

Reports said that at least two Australian nationals have been presenting themselves to the fire service as both search and rescue staff and disaster victim identification personnel.

Canterbury police nightshift supervisor Russell Gibson said such opportunists were the "lowest of the low".

"We've had more and more reports of people with pseudo professional clothing, clipboards, vests and hard hats going door to door asking about appliances inside," the officer said.

"When they've been approached they haven't passed muster and they've disappeared. I can only surmise that those people are there with dishonourable intentions. Whether it was just ghoulish curiosity or an elaborate theft plan I don't know," he said.

He also urged locals to demand to see identification, saying "For goodness sake, check who they are, who they're working for and why they're there".

He said looting in vacant homes was becoming a significant problem, with a few arrests made and many more to come. Gibson also expressed apprehension that suicides may rise too in the aftermath of the calamity.

"We haven't seen that yet. We really hope Christchurch residents don't let it get that bad," he said.

The names of dozens of Asian students who were caught in the collapse of the six-level CTV building on Madras Street were also published on the website of their languages school.

The school, King's Education, occupied the third floor, which meant students, teachers and administrative staff had almost no chance of survival when the building crumbled and burnt in Tuesday's quake.

At least 44 students and nine staff members are presumed to have died, and a further 34 students remained unaccounted for.

With students from six countries -- Japan, China, the Philippines, Thailand, Saudi Arabia and South Korea - school director John Ryder said: "This isn't just a tragedy for Christchurch and New Zealand, it's a tragedy to the world".

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