Christchurch residents vow to rebuild city shattered by earthquake
Feb 28 2011 By Kristen Gelineau
RESIDENTS of Christchurch held poignant open-air prayers for the dead and missing yesterday in the shadow of cracked and shattered churches.
As rescue teams continued their search through the debris of the city devastated in last week's earthquake, thousands of locals gathered to remember victims.
Mayor Bob Parker told the sombre crowds: "As our citizens make their way to church they will be joined in prayer by millions around the world.
"For now we are truly comforted by the thoughts and prayers of so many."
The Reverend Philip Robinson added: "This is not called Christchurch for nothing. We will rise again."
Parishioners set up rows of chairs in the sunlight on the lawn of St Barnabas, an 86-year-old Anglican church where the quake cracked stone walls, shattered some stained glass windows and left the tower sinking.
Wails from passing police cars and the roar of a military helicopter overhead occasionally interrupted the sermon.
Outdoor services were also held at other churches while members of New Zealand's Maori community held a ceremony at the ruined cathedral to bless spirits of the 26 dead believed buried under the rubble there.
The official death toll rose yesterday to 147 with at least another 50 missing. Four Britons are thought to be among the dead.
The multi-national team of more than 600 rescuers last pulled a survivor from the ruins at mid-afternoon on Wednesday, making it four days without finding anyone alive.
Rescue coordinator Jim Stuart-Black said that rescuers were "still in active rescue mode" and continued "to look in every possible place for survivors".
But he added that finding anyone else alive was increasingly unlikely. He said: "We are starting to move into the miracle stage of the operation."
The city's central area may be unusable for months to come. Up to a third of buildings may need to be knocked down and rebuilt and around 50,000 people are now out of work.
A two-minute silence for victims is expected to be held tomorrow.