WELLINGTON, New Zealand (RNS/ENInews) A complete search of an Anglican cathedral in Christchurch, New Zealand turned up no bodies buried in the rubble, despite widespread reports that 20 to 22 people had been trapped inside.
ChristChurch Cathedral’s spire collapsed into its bell tower on Feb. 22 when a 6.3-magnitude earthquake hit New Zealand’s second largest city, causing widespread damage. The death toll is up to 166 people and may yet rise as search and recovery efforts continue. Authorities have estimated that 10,000 of the city’s 140,000 homes will have to be demolished and 100,000 are damaged but can be repaired.
The Anglican cathedral’s dean, the Very Rev. Peter Beck, said he wept when he was informedon Saturday (March 5) that no one had been killed in the cathedral.
“I just burst into tears, it was astonishing, I was just speechless at that news,” he told Radio New Zealand. “We were expecting to have to don our clerical gear and say prayers for the dead. It’s just unbelievable and remarkable. We just thank God, thank God so much.”
Assistant Urban Search and Rescue Force commander Paul Baxter told a news conference it had been a “surreal feeling” finding no bodies after completing the search at the cathedral. He said searchers retrieved a cross from the high altar and recovered the church bells.