Rescuers officially gave up hope of finding more survivors of New Zealand’s devastating earthquake, saying yesterday that no one trapped in rubble when the disaster struck nine days earlier could still be alive.
The news was a blow to the families of around 200 people listed as missing, many of whom clung to faltering hopes for good news despite more than a week of silence from beneath the piles of debris that still litter the city of Christchurch.
“We now face the reality that there is no chance that anyone could have survived this long,” Civil Defense Emergency Management national controller John Hamilton told a news conference.
“Sadly, there becomes a point where the response effort shifts in focus from rescue to body recovery,” he said. “We have now reached that point.”
More than 900 workers trained in disaster rescue and recovery rushed to Christchurch from several countries after the Feb. 22 quake, and have been gingerly picking through the wreckage.
Jim Stuart-Black, the fire service chief who heads the work force, said his teams would start using more heavy machinery the clear the debris, though they would continue to work carefully “to allow for that miracle.”
Ethel Uy, whose niece Rhea Mae Sumalpong is among 11 Filipinos missing in the quake, said if she had been killed then the family wants her body returned to them so they can hold a funeral.
“We’ve prayed for a miracle from God, it’s all up to God,” Uy said by telephone from Cebu, speaking of yesterday’s decision. “If that’s Rhea’s fate, our wish is for all of her remains to be brought back to us. We want to give her a proper burial.”
New Zealand Prime Minister John Key announced a national memorial service would be held in Christchurch, with the date to be set later.
“Today is a day when we as a nation, along with our many friends around the world, mark with a heavy heart and great sadness this moment of unbearable loss for the many families involved,” he said.
Rescuers pulled 70 people from the rubble in the first 26 hours after the quake struck just before 1pm on Feb. 22, but no one has been found alive since.
Officials say many of the missing are among 161 bodies that have been pulled from the rubble so far. Only 13 of those bodies have been publicly identified because the extent of injuries suffered by many victims has made the process slow and painstaking, requiring DNA testing or dental records, officials say.
Meanwhile, officials said Christchurch’s recovery would take at least a decade.
New Zealand’s acting Economic Development Minister David Carter said it would take “more than 10 years” to rebuild the city, the main gateway to the country’s South Island.
He said work would get under way quickly but “it’s a big project.”
Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker said the central business district (CBD) would remain closed for months.
About 22,000 households remain without electricity across the city.
“You can see with the level of damage that we have in the CBD that it is going to be some months before it is going to be reopened,” he told a media briefing.
“However, in terms of putting a timeline on what that is, we just don’t have information at this stage,” he said.
Nevertheless, Parker said the city was determined to host Rugby World Cup matches this year as scheduled. Christchurch is to host five pool games and two quarter-finals in the Cup, which begins on Sept. 9.
“Utterly, absolutely, totally committed to that,” he said, although the city’s rugby venue, AMI Stadium, will remain closed until at least March 15 while operators check the extent of damage there.
There is also a question mark over several inner-city hotels that are awaiting assessment by structural engineers.
Female flight attendants working for Japan Airlines would next month be allowed to wear trousers and abandon high heels, the company said on Thursday, after a feminist campaign took off. The airline became one of the first major Japanese firms to announce the shift after a campaign known as #KuToo last year rejected mandatory high heels at work, drawing more than 32,000 signatures in an online petition. The campaign is part of a wider feminism movement in Japan, with Japan Airlines saying that the new policy was aimed at boosting a “diverse working environment.” PANTS PERMIT “This will be the first time to introduce
FATAL IDEA: The nation’s drugs regulator is curbing use of hydroxychloroquine, which Donald Trump has promoted for its alleged potential to treat COVID-19 Australia’s drug regulator has been forced to restrict powers to prescribe a drug undergoing clinical trials to treat COVID-19, because doctors have been inappropriately prescribing it to themselves and their family members, despite potentially deadly side effects. The anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine and the similar compound chloroquine are currently used mostly for patients with autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, but stocks in Australia have been diminished thanks to global publicity — including from US President Donald Trump — about the potential of the drug to treat COVID-19. Hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine have potentially severe and even deadly side effects if used inappropriately, including
TARGETED: Although hackers are known to be seeking to capitalize on concern over COVID-19, a cybersecurity expert said he had never seen anything to this extent before Elite hackers tried to break into the WHO earlier this month, sources said, part of what a senior agency official said was a more than two-fold increase in cyberattacks. The identity of the hackers was unclear and the effort was unsuccessful, WHO Chief Information Security Officer Flavio Aggio said. However, he warned that hacking attempts against the agency and its partners have soared as they battle to contain COVID-19, which has killed more than 15,000 worldwide. The attempted break-in at the WHO was first flagged to Reuters by Alexander Urbelis, a cybersecurity expert and attorney with the New York-based Blackstone Law Group,
PORNHUB: Campaigners warn that videos of serious crimes, such as rape, are being uploaded to the site, which has failed to ban or moderate illegal content British lawmakers and campaigners are calling for urgent action to stop videos of rape, revenge porn and child abuse being posted on Pornhub as traffic to the site booms amid a worldwide COVID-19 lockdown. Pornhub’s traffic is up a record 12 percent this month compared with last month, as millions of people across the world are told to stay in their homes. Pornhub owner Mindgeek has used the coronavirus lockdowns to promote its site, giving free Premium access to people living in isolation in Italy, Spain and France. The offer has led to a huge increase in visits to the site from affected