Hopes fade in quake survivors hunt


Search and recovery personnel assess possible search access at the destroyed CTV building in Christchurch (AP)

Hopes of finding survivors of the New Zealand earthquake were fading as friends and relatives waited in vain for news of their loved ones.

Families were warned to prepare for the “worst type of news” after another day dawned with no sign of life beneath the rubble.

Among anxious British families waiting for news were relatives of Susan Selway, who was in her fourth-floor office in the Canterbury Television building in Christchurch on South Island when the tremors tore through the city earlier this week.

Ms Selway, a clinical psychologist who celebrated her 50th birthday this month, was working in the building temporarily after her previous office was badly damaged in the last earthquake to hit the area. Her husband, financial adviser Richard Austin, rushed to her workplace after hearing the news and waited all night with his brother David in the hope of seeing her walk out of the building alive. But he is yet to hear any news about her.

Ms Selway’s stepmother, Linda Selway, 55, from Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire, said: “It’s absolutely awful. Her old office building was condemned after the last earthquake but it wasn’t hit this time and if she had been there she would have been alright.”

Ms Selway, born in New Zealand to British parents and educated in the UK, had been due to move out of the Canterbury Television building next Tuesday into new premises.

Her stepmother described her as “very gutsy”.

“She’s beautiful, gorgeous, lovely and very bubbly,” she said. “She’s the life and soul of the party and is always helping people out. She’s the rock of the family.”

Friends and family of another missing Briton, Phil Coppeard, 41, also faced an agonising wait to learn what had happened to him. Mr Coppeard emigrated to the country relatively recently with his wife Suzanne Craig. Elizabeth Edwards, chair of the Ipswich Town Supporters Club, of which he is a member, said: “He’s a really avid football fan. I’m worried about his safety. I think we all are.”

New Zealand foreign minister Murray McCully said: “There will be families receiving the worst type of news in the next few days.” The number of bodies in the city’s temporary morgue has risen to 113, with more than 200 people missing, but police say a large number of the 113 dead will be on their missing list. Two Britons have been confirmed to be among the dead.

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