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Remains of four New Zealand quake victims to remain unidentified


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Remains of four New Zealand quake victims to remain unidentified

2011-09-08 10:46:07 GMT+7 (ICT)

CHRISTCHURCH, NEW ZEALAND (BNO NEWS) -- The remains of four people who died when a strong earthquake struck the New Zealand city of Christchurch in February will remain unidentified, officials announced on Thursday.

A total of 181 people were killed on February 22 when a 6.3-magnitude earthquake struck about 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) southeast of Christchurch, the largest city on the South Island of New Zealand. It struck about 5 kilometers (3 miles) deep.

More than six months after the disaster, three foreigners and one New Zealander remain unidentified despite intensive work to identify their remains. Officials have now given up and do not expect that their remains will ever be identified.

All four unidentified victims were killed when the CTV building in Christchurch collapsed and caught fire. "Any traces of DNA have been destroyed by the extremely high temperatures caused by the fire in the CTV building," Acting Chief Coroner Gordon Matenga said.

Matenga added: "Despite extensive and exhaustive efforts we have been unable to return any remains of their loved ones to these families but we have been able to issue inquest findings that will help them complete the formalities required."

The families of the victims were informed last week that the remains of their loved ones would remain unidentified. "We have been in constant contact with these families during the [Disaster Victim Identification (DVI)] process to ensure they knew what work was underway to identify their loved ones," said Police Inspector Mark Harrison.

"I sat with these families last week and explained to them that we have been unable to do so. They appreciated that police and the other people working with us had spent the last six months doing everything we could to identify them," Harrison added.

The victims whose remains are unidentified were named 40-year-old Shawn Lucas of Christchurch, 25-year-old Rhea Mae Sumalpong of the Philippines, 53-year-old Elsa Torres de Frood of Peru, and 41-year-old Valeri Volnov of Russia. Both Torres De Frood and Volnov lived in New Zealand, while Sumalpong lived in Australia.

"We are now working with the families and the Christchurch City Council to ensure an appropriate memorial for these four victims is established," Harrison added.

The earthquake in February was New Zealand's deadliest disaster since a powerful 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck the Hawke's Bay region on February 3, 1931, killing at least 256 people and injuring thousands more.

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-- © BNO News All rights reserved 2011-09-08

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