New Zealand mourns its dead; toll touches 155



New Zealand mourns its dead; toll touches 155 Melbourne: New Zealand Tuesday mourned its dead with a two-minute silence observed countrywide exactly a week after Christchurch was hit by a devastating earthquake, as rescuers confirmed the recovery of 155 bodies from the debris.

As many as 240 people died in the 6.8 magnitude quake that hit the southern city last Tuesday but rescue workers are battling technical problems and aftershocks to pull out bodies from the rubble.

Rescue workers today said they have so far pulled out 155 bodies from the debris of collapsed buildings but the rest are still missing.

One week past the quake, New Zealanders joined in to mourn the loss of lives in the tragedy with a two-minute silence observed across the country to remember the victims.

Thousands fell silent with their heads bowed down and rescue workers took a break from their job to observe the mourning.

Traffic came to a standstill and flags flew at half-staff across the country.

The government, meanwhile, ordered a probe into the collapse of buildings, including the Canterbury Television (CTV) building, which accounted for one of the largest mass casualties in the city.

It is believed many bodies are still buried in the ruins of the building, along with many more in the Pyne Gould Corporation building, New Zealand Herald said.

"There has to be an inquiry, we have to provide answers about why so many lost their lives," Prime Minister John Key said.

The owners of the six-storey CTV building welcomed the decision for inquiry and said they were "absolutely devastated and distraught" over the catastrophic collapse.

A spokesperson for the owners said that the building was 'green-stickered' by the Christchurch City Council following a quake in September which means an inspection had been carried out and the building deemed secure for occupation.

Key also said that New Zealanders had to learn lessons from the earthquake.

"Some things are just beyond our control but we owe it to people to give them answers," he said.

PTI