Christchurch quake: 10,000 homes 'cannot be rebuilt'

'No Go' is written on the window of a condemned home in Christchurch NZ 6 March 2011
Image caption Up to 10,000 out of 100,000 damaged homes in Christchurch cannot be rebuilt

New Zealand's Prime Minister John Key has said 10,000 homes in Christchurch cannot be rebuilt after the 22 February earthquake.

He also announced a national memorial day of 18 March, with events planned for Christchurch's Hagley Park.

On Sunday the treasury department said that quake recovery would cost the country NZ$15bn ($11bn; £7bn).

The death toll, at 166 so far, is expected to rise to around 200 as rescue work continues.

Rescue workers were relieved to find no dead in the rubble of the collapsed tower of Christchurch Cathedral; they had earlier pulled about 90 bodies from the Canterbury TV building.

Victims are being identified using fingerprints, DNA, dental records and other personal items such as jewellery.

The painstaking process could take months to complete, officials say, adding to the misery of relatives waiting for news.

Experts say there were cases after previous disasters and accidents overseas where the wrong body was returned to the family, compounding the grief of everyone involved.

To avoid such traumatic mistakes, the authorities in New Zealand insist their work will be meticulous.

High cost

Speaking at a news conference, Mr Key said New Zealanders must "brace ourselves" for the probable demolition of many heritage buildings as well as homes.

He said some parts of the city could not be rebuilt because of liquefaction - the weakening of the soil due to the rising of silt and water sparked by the quake.

The Earthquake Commission has begun land assessments and will begin assessing houses from this week.

A private building supply company has also begun emergency repairs to houses as part of a contribution to quake relief, Mr Key said.

Fiji tourism operators have meanwhile offered cheap flights and accommodation to quake victims in the Pacific Islands territory.

Earlier estimates of the cost of rebuilding the city were trebled in comments by Treasury officials.

"We estimate that GDP growth will be around 1.5 percentage points lower in the 2011 calendar year solely as a result of the February earthquake," the Treasury said in its monthly report.

Finance Minister Bill English said that paying for the earthquake was likely to involve "a bit more borrowing in the short term" and changing spending priorities.

Meanwhile, residents of the central zone of Christchurch were at last being allowed past police cordons to see the extent of damage to their homes.

The 70-strong UK Search and Rescue team has now left Christchurch.

Power is expected to be restored to 99% of dwellings in the city by the end of Monday.

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