Rescuers still hope for a miracle in the quake-shattered New Zealand city of Christchurch as the search for survivors went into a fifth day on Saturday, with the death toll rising to 113 and with more than 200 people missing.
The arrival of teams from Britain and the United States, who joined rescuers from Japan, Taiwan and Australia, has allowed the difficult search to push into suburban areas hit hard by Tuesday's 6.3 tremor in New Zealand's second-biggest city.
"I believe we're going to find people alive in the rubble. That thought is going to keep me going for the next two days, three days, however long it takes," Mayor Bob Parker said.
"We're going to keep on thinking positive, because we can't think any other way," he said.
A team of British urban search and rescue experts said survivors had been found elsewhere more than a week after earthquakes, trapped between masonry and rubble, and they were hopeful of another miracle as a cold rain cleared.
Fears of a disease outbreak from contaminated water and broken sewage systems forced the closure of an emergency centre and relocation of more than 100 people to another centre outside the city, where a night curfew remains in place.
Many of the missing were students who had come to the city, one of New Zealand's most attractive, from Japan, China, Taiwan and India to learn English against a backdrop of the country's dramatic southern alps.
Tales were emerging of daring rescues, with doctors in the depths of one collapsed building having to use a Swiss Army knife to amputate one man's legs to free him.
Parker said damage was particularly high in the city's eastern suburbs, near the epicentre, where hundreds of homes have been marked with red tape for demolition, making the tremor far worse than one that struck last year.
"The scale of this is huge, possibly 300 to 500 percent the level of liquefaction we had in September," he said, pointing to ground turned into a mush that swallowed cars and houses as groundwater was shaken together with soil.
More than 300 Australian police arrived in the city on Friday and were sworn in as officers to aid the recovery and rescue operation as a strong 4.4 magnitude aftershock struck the city, raising fears of more building collapses.
Searchers on Friday pulled stone blocks from the landmark Christchurch cathedral, where 22 people were thought to have been buried as the spire collapsed, including overseas tourists thought to have been inside the bell tower.
More than half of the dead have come from the ruins of the Canterbury Television (CTV) building, which housed a popular English language school. About 65 people, including many missing Japanese and Chinese students, are believed to be inside, caught as floors pancaked down on one another.
An estimated 70 people have been rescued alive, but no survivor has been pulled from the wreckage of the city centre since mid-afternoon on Wednesday.
Ratings agency Standard & Poor's backed New Zealand's ability to withstand the massive economic impact of the quake, saying the country's AA+ foreign rating with a negative outlook was secure.
Early estimates of insurance losses have ranged from $3 billion to $12 billion. Prime Minister John Key said the country's Earthquake Commission (EQC) disaster fund stood at about NZ$6 billion before the quake, with reinsurance in place and further government backing as needed.
ReutersLast Mod: 25 Şubat 2011, 14:39