Post-mortems on quake victims near completion

10:42 pm on 7 March 2011

Post-mortems on victims of the Christchurch earthquake are likely to be completed in the next few days, police say.

The official death toll remained at 166 on Monday. Police said identification of all the victims could take some time, and cited an example of another disaster where it took more than a year for final identification to be completed.

Superintendent Sam Hoyle told a news conference on Monday that the number on the missing persons list is reducing as more of the dead are officially identified.

However, he says the list is a "moveable feast" because names are being removed as identifications progress and, even at this stage, one or two names are being added, particularly of tourists or backpackers.

Search and rescue teams cleared 300 buildings in central Christchurch on Sunday. Teams continue to try to clear the stairwell at the Forsyth Barr building where they are making slow progress.

The Fire Service says the Hotel Grand Chancellor has been cleared and the operation there is over. The 26-storey building has been on a lean since the day after the earthquake, but no decision has been made as to whether to demolish or salvage.

The national controller for Civil Defence says buildings that pose a safety risk for search and rescue crews working through them will be completely or partially demolished. He says every endeavour is made to contact the owner should a demolition be necessary, but if a building needs to be pulled down quickly for safety reasons, he is responsible for approving the demolition.

Meanwhile, Fire Service Assistant Commissioner Paul Baxter says people should contact the Fire Service if they want tarpaulins fixed on exposed parts of their property, given that temperatures are dropping.