Image: Workers sift through the rubble of CTV building
Mark Baker  /  AP
Recovery workers sift through the rubble of the earthquake-damaged CTV building in Christchurch on Saturday.
By
updated 2/26/2011 12:14:28 AM ET 2011-02-26T05:14:28

Fresh aftershocks sent masonry tumbling among rescuers in New Zealand's quake zone and a cat sparked false alarms Saturday of a possible survivor, as the disaster's death toll rose to 145 with more than 200 missing.

Grim assessments emerged for the fate of the central business district in devastated Christchurch, with engineers and planners saying it will be unusable for months and that about a third of the buildings must be destroyed and rebuilt.

On the outer edge of the district, Brent Smith watched in tears as workers demolished his 1850s-era house, where he had run a bed and breakfast and where antique jugs and a $6,000 Victorian bed were reduced to shards and firewood. His three daughters hugged him, also weeping.

"You don't know whether to laugh or cry but I've been doing more of the latter," Smith said.

Story: Amid New Zealand tragedy, the wedding must go on

Prime Minister John Key, who spent some of the afternoon speaking to families who lost loved ones in the disaster, called on all New Zealanders to hold two minutes of silence next Tuesday to remember victims and the ordeal of the survivors.

"This may be New Zealand's single-most tragic event," Key said.

Key said the government would announce an aid package Monday for an estimated 50,000 people who will be out of work for months due to the closure of downtown.

Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker assured relatives of the missing — including people from several countries who have converged on this southern New Zealand city of 350,000— that every effort was being made to locate any remaining survivors.

No one was found alive overnight as a multinational team of more than 600 rescuers continued scouring the city's central business district, although a paramedic reported hearing voices in one destroyed building early Saturday, Police Superintendent Russel Gibson said.

"We mobilized a significant number of people and sent a dog in again — and a cat jumped out," Gibson said, adding that a rescue team removed "a significant amount of rubble to be 100 percent" certain that no person was trapped inside.

Police have said up to 120 bodies may be entombed in the ruins of the downtown CTV building alone, where dozens of foreign students from an international school were believed trapped.

Still, Gibson said rescuers weren't completely ruling out good news.

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"I talked to experts who say we've worked on buildings like this overseas and we get miracles. New Zealand deserves a few miracles," he said.

The King's Education language school released a list of missing people presumed in the building: nine teachers and 51 students — 26 Japanese, 14 Chinese, six Filipinos, three Thais, one South Korean and one Czech. An additional 20 students were listed with "status unknown."

The death toll rose Saturday to 145 after additional bodies were pulled from wrecked buildings, Police Superintendent David Cliff said. More than 200 people remain missing, he said.

At Christchurch's iconic cathedral, workers had just begun work on its ruined bell tower late Friday when fresh aftershocks sent more masonry tumbling from the building.

Image:Recovery workers inspect earthquake-damaged Pyne Gould Corporation building
Mark Baker  /  AP
Crews inspect the damaged Pyne Gould Corporation building in Christchurch.

Rescuers were immediately withdrawn while the safety of the 130-year old church was reassessed and a new plan made to reach as many as 22 people who may be entombed inside.

The city's central business district will take several months to recover, Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee said, adding that "most of the services, in fact all of the services that are offered in the CBD will need to relocate elsewhere."

Damaged buildings will need to be bulldozed and rebuilt "so that people can have confidence about coming back into the area to transact any business that's here."

One in three of the central city's mostly brick buildings were severely damaged in the quake and must be demolished, earthquake engineer Jason Ingham said.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Video: ‘Earthquake mayor’ looks to rally New Zealand city

Photos: 6.3 quake rocks New Zealand city

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  1. Grant Smith, second from left, is assisted as he walks behind the coffin of his 9-month-old son, Jayden Harris, in Christchurch, New Zealand, on March 2. Jayden was killed on Feb. 22 when a 6.3 magnitude earthquake hit Christchurch. (Mark Mitchell / New Zealand Herald via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. People battle high winds and dust in Christchurch on March 1, as the silt caused from soil liquefaction after the quake dried out. (Brett Phibbs / New Zealand Herald via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Urban Search and Rescue workers from Japan, New Zealand, China and Australia at Cathedral Square observe two minutes of silence at 12.51pm local time to mark the time of last week's Christchurch earthquake, March 1. (Cameron Spencer / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Students work in the suburb of Shirley to clear away silt caused as a result of liquefaction on March 1 in Christchurch, New Zealand. (Phil Walter / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Mourners at the funeral for Joe Pohio follow the casket to the Kaiti Atua Cemetery for a burial service on March 1 in Kaiapoi, New Zealand. Joe Pohio was killed from falling debris after coming to the aid of a woman in the Christchurch City Food Court after the earthquake struck. (Phil Walter / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Cattle graze in a flooded field discoloured by mineral contamination on the outskirts of Christchurch on Feb. 27. (Torsten Blackwood / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Liquefaction engulfs the tomb of Rhoda Toomer in the historic Barbadoes Street Cemetery, on Feb. 26 in Christchurch. (Torsten Blackwood / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Rev. Philip Robinson holds a service outside the St. Barnabas Church in Christchurch, New Zealand, Sunday, Feb. 27, 2011. The church sustained minor damage after a 6.3 magnitude earthquake hit the city Tuesday, Feb 22. (Rob Griffith / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Ray Shearman takes a break from cleaning the silt from his yard in the suburb of Bexley on Feb. 26, in Christchurch, New Zealand. (Cameron Spencer / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Brent Smith and his family watch as their earthquake-damaged house is demolished in Christchurch, Saturday, Feb. 26. Violent aftershocks from the Feb. 22 magnitude-6.3 quake hampered desperate efforts to find survivors. (Tim Wimborne / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Cars lie crushed under a fallen building in central Christchurch, Feb. 26. (Pool / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Neighbors check on a damaged house on Cashel Street on Feb. 2, in Christchurch. (Hannah Johnston / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Newlyweds Emma Howard and Chris Greenslade cheer for a group photo after their wedding on Friday, just days after she was pulled from the rubble of the earthquake devastated Pyne Gould Corporation in Christchurch. (Mark Baker / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. A large crack runs down a road in Christchurch on Friday. (Marty Melville / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. A car lies buried by rubble on Friday in the port town of Lyttelton, which was the epicenter of the 6.3 earthquake. (Torsten Blackwood / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. Debrah Moore and her children gather in front of their tent after their house was made unliveable by Tuesday's earthquake, in a beach-side suburb of Christchurch on Friday. (Tim Wimborne / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. Tristan Webb stands in a large hole along River Road, Avonside in Christchurch. (Martin Hunter / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. Jacob Baymon gives free apples to a cyclist on Ferry Road on Feb. 24 in Christchurch. (Hannah Johnston / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. Relatives of missing Japanese students walk to a bus after arriving at Christchurch airport on Feb. 25. Many Japanese students of an international English language school are still unaccounted for after the quake. (Mark Baker / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. Members of Canterbury University volunteer army clean up mud on Feb. 24 in Christchurch. The quake caused liquefaction of the ground. (Martin Hunter / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. A suburban street is covered with silt forced out of the ground by liquefaction. (Torsten Blackwood / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. Rescuers stand at the smoking ruins of the CTV building in Christchurch on Feb. 24; dozens of people are feared buried there. (Marty Melville / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. Luxury homes stand on the edge of a landslide in Sumner, a suburb southeast of Christchurch on Feb. 24. (Torsten Blackwood / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  24. The Grand Chancellor Hotel, which authorities expect to collapse, is seen in central Christchurch on Feb. 24. (Simon Baker / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  25. The QE2 Stadium's track and field are damaged with silt forced out of the ground by liquefaction. (Torsten Blackwood / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  26. Members of the Japan Disaster Relief Team line up as they board their flight to New Zealand at Narita international airport east of Tokyo on Feb. 23. (Toru Hanai / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  27. A rescue worker looks for signs of life in the rubble of the CTV building on Feb. 23. (Simon Baker / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  28. A woman is pulled from the rubble on Feb. 23. (Marlborough Express / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  29. The four-story Pyne Gould Corporation building lies in ruin in central Christchurch, Feb. 23. (Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  30. A resident walks through the center of Lyttelton, near Christchurch on Feb. 24. (Mark Baker / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  31. A giant boulder sits below a house that it went through near Lyttleton on the outskirts of Christchurch on Feb. 24. (Mark Baker / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  32. Two men celebrate after being pulled out from a destroyed building in Christchurch on Feb. 23. (John Kirk-Anderson / Christchurch Press via Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  33. Murray and Kelly James look at their destroyed house in central Christchurch on Feb. 23. (Mark Baker / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  34. A man is escorted by a rescue worker after being pulled from a destroyed building in Christchurch on Feb. 23. (John Kirk-Anderson / Christchurch Press via Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  35. Rescue workers surround the Canterbury TV building in Christchurch on Feb. 23. (Hannah Johnston / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  36. A rail line buckled by the shifting earth is pictured in Christchurch on Feb. 23. (Marty Melville / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  37. Tourists shelter at the Salvation Army centre at Cowles Stadium in Christchurch on Wednesday. (Tracey Nearmy / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  38. A rescue worker uses a thermal imaging camera to search for signs of life in the Pyne Gould Guinness building in central Christchurch on Wednesday. (Simon Baker / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  39. A rescue worker guides survivor Ann Bodkin out of the destroyed Pyne Gould Guinness building in Christchurch on Wednesday. (Rob Griffith / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  40. An aerial view of emergency services people working at the ruined CTV building in central Christchurch Wednesday. Search teams used their bare hands, dogs, heavy cranes and earth movers to pull survivors from the rubble of Tuesday's powerful earthquake. (Sarah Ivey / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  41. Fifteen-year-old Kent Manning, left, and his sister Libby, 18, pictured with their father, who asked not to identified, after they were told by police on Wednesday that there was no hope of finding Kent and Libby's mother alive in the collapsed CTV building. (Rob Griffith / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  42. A fuel tanker sits abandoned and blocked by fallen rubble on a main road between Lyttelton Township and Christchurch on Wednesday. (Sarah Ivey / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  43. The Timeball Station is seen to be badly damaged, a day after the 6.3-magnitude earthquake in the township of Lyttelton near Christchurch on Wednesday. (Sarah Ivey / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  44. A vehicle is stuck in liquification in a street after a magnitude 6.3 earthquake in Christchurch on Wednesday. (Dianne Manson / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  45. Icebergs caved into Tasman Lake as a result of the 6.3 earthquake on Tuesday. The New Zealand Herald newspaper reported that 30 million tons of ice broke free from the Tasman Glacier in Aoraki Mt Cook National Park. (Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  46. The Christchurch Catholic Cathedral was extensively damaged by the earthquake on Tuesday. (David Wethey / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  47. Rescue workers search for earthquake survivors at the collapsed CTV building in Christchurch on Tuesday. (Carys Monteath / Christchurch Press via Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  48. Survivors wait in Latimer Square in Christchurch's central business district, hoping recuers will locate friends and family buried beneath the rubble on Tuesday. A 6.3 magnitude earthquake struck 12 miles southeast of Christchurch at around 1 p.m. local time. (Lisa Wiltse / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  49. A schoolgirl cries in central Christchurch on Tuesday. (A.j. Sisco / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  50. A man holds a child in his arms after a 6.3-magnitude earthquake struck Christchurch on Tuesday. (Iain McGregor / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  51. A man is seen after being pulled from the rubble. (Iain McGregor / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  52. Rescue workers and a helicopter work to extinguish a fire at a collapsed building in the city center. (Mark Mitchell / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  53. Trapped people broke windows in preparation of their rescue from a high-rise building in central Christchurch. (AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  54. A woman is pulled from the rubble. (Iain McGregor / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  55. Two women hug each other in front of a collapsed building in central Christchurch. (Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  56. A police officer talks to a woman trapped in the city's damaged cathedral after the earthquake. (Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  57. People are evacuated from a health clinic in Christchurch. (AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  58. A collapsed building covers parked cars in the aftermath of the earthquake. (Logan McMillan / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  59. The suburb of Bexley is flooded following the earthquake. (Mark Mitchell / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  60. Debris from collapsed buildings crushed cars and littered the streets after the earthquake. (Martin Hunter / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  61. Rescuers search for survivors in a collapsed building. (Martin Hunter / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  62. A woman is rescued from inside a building after Tuesday's earthquake. (Richard Cosgrove / Christchurch Press via Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  63. Debris from the collapsed tower of Christchurch cathedral is seen after the earthquake Tuesday. (Don Scott / Christchurch Press via Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  64. Editor's note:
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    Rescue workers carry the body of a woman who died in the Christchuch earthquake. (Martin Hunter / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  65. People receive treatment as rescuers search for victims trapped inside a commercial building after the Christchurch earthquake. (Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  66. A bus lies semi-crushed and covered with debris after the quake. (Martin Hunter / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  1. Editor's note:
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Interactive: New Zealand quake

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