New Zealand mulls mass grave for quake victims

Police have named 169 victims of magnitude 6.3 quake which hit Christchurch.

Wellington: Some victims of Christchurch`s deadly earthquake over a month ago may never be identified and their remains may be buried in a mass grave, New Zealand`s chief coroner said on Thursday.

Police have named 169 victims of the magnitude 6.3 earthquake which hit the southern city on February 22, but say they have yet to identify partial remains of others and the final death toll may be 180.

Chief coroner Judge Neil McLean told National Radio on Thursday that in some cases the remains were so damaged or small that identification even by DNA analysis might not be possible.

McLean said he would meet with victims` families and embassy staff representing international victims in Christchurch on Friday to discuss the progress of the identification effort and what should be done with remains that cannot be identified.

If identification by medical or scientific means was not possible, an inquest would be held for some victims.

"We will hear what we call circumstantial evidence — witnesses or CCTV coverage. All those things where we can get to a stage where we can say although we have not recovered anything identifiable, they died on this date and the likely cause of death is this," McLean said.

It was possible that some remains could be buried in a mass grave.

All of the victims still to be identified were from the Canterbury Television building that completely collapsed in the quake. Students from Japan, China and other countries were among those buried in the building, which housed an English language school.

Bureau Report

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