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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Christchurch earthquake wreckage under lock and key

Christchurch earthquake wreckage under lock and key

Last updated 05:00 16/03/2011

Tonnes of debris from the CTV and Pyne Gould buildings will be kept isolated amid fears about asbestos and the wish to be as sensitive as possible about victims' remains contained in the rubble.

The death toll from the 6.3 magnitude quake on February 22 is likely to be about 180.

An estimated 110 of the victims were in the two buildings, and the nature of their injuries has made it difficult to find and identify the remains of some victims.

The CTV site has largely been cleared, but a lot of rubble remains at the PGC site, where firefighters are dousing it daily to control asbestos. Both sites were blessed by kaumatua and a police chaplain, as part of ceremonies at more than 20 sites in Christchurch where people died in the quake.

As authorities grapple with the logistics of removing millions of tonnes of rubble and silt from the city, special measures are in place to deal with the material from the two buildings because of sensitivities about the human remains they contain.

A council spokesman said forensic work was continuing on the material and it was being kept secure to avoid contamination.

Police and Urban Search and Rescue said the material was being isolated for two reasons – to comply with any requirements of the royal commission of inquiry and the coronial inquest process, and because of the human remains and asbestos issues.

No-one would say how long it had been since any remains were found in the rubble, where the material was being stored and how long it would be kept.

The chief coroner is yet to decide an inquest process, but it may mirror the Pike River disaster and be delayed until the royal commission of inquiry findings. It is also possible inquests will be held only for those presumed dead but not identified, to give closure to families.

As identified bodies are handed over to families in Christchurch, two to three "mini-inquests" a day are being held for a coroner to rule on cause of death so a death certificate can be issued.

Meanwhile, rubble from other damaged buildings in the city centre will be used to rebuild the city. It is being sorted at the Burwood landfill, with materials being salvaged where possible.

"Concrete and bricks will be a valuable resource for reconstruction and it's a waste to fill the landfill with it. We'll recycle what we can," Christchurch City Council water and waste manager Mark Christison said.
The 260,000 tonnes of silt removed from city streets would be turned into sand dunes at the old Burwood landfill.

"They will be planted and will become a new part of our environment," he said.

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