, CHRISTCHURCH, Feb 28 – Rescuers said they were "highly unlikely" to find more survivors from the Christchurch earthquake on Monday after finding no signs of life in the ruins for five days.
The New Zealand fire service\’s rescue operation manager Jim Stuart-Black relayed the grim assessment to families of more than 50 people still listed as missing after last Tuesday\’s devastating 6.3-magnitude earthquake.
"Today in discussions with the families, I made the comment that it is probably highly unlikely that we will encounter live victims within collapsed structures," he told reporters.
The assessment underscores police expectations the final toll from the disaster that flattened huge swathes of the city will exceed 200, as the discovery of more bodies adds to the 148 fatalities already confirmed.
"It would be a miracle if we encountered somebody at this stage on any of the sites on which we\’re currently working," Stuart-Black said.
He said the last sign of life in the wreckage was last Wednesday, when a woman was pulled from a collapsed office building.
Rescuers had previously insisted they were conducting "an active rescue operation" looking for survivors, rather than working to retrieve bodies.