Monday, February 28, 2011

Carnage continues down under: Quake-hit Christchurch braces for 130 km windstorm

The death toll from the disaster reached 148 Monday but police expect the final tally to exceed 200, with more than 50 still listed as "unaccounted for" in the rubble of New Zealand's second largest city.

Police have said some victims may never be identified.

The catastrophe flattened office blocks, tore up roads and destroyed the spire of the city's landmark cathedral, leaving one-third of the downtown area facing demolition.

Winds of up to 130 kilometres (80 miles) per hour were forecast to whip through the region on Monday, officials said, likely forcing rescuers to retreat from ruins already on the brink of collapse.

"(It) will of course, if you have gale-force winds, impact on structures, it will affect rescue operations in the area where we have loose masonry," mayor Bob Parker said. (read more)