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Christchurch earthquake toll 160

world Updated: Mar 03, 2011 00:44 IST

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At least 160 people have been killed in last week's deadly earthquake that hit New Zealand's Christchurch, officials said, even as strong winds continue to hamper rescue and relief operations in the city.

The reconstruction bill for New Zealand's second largest city is estimated at up to USD 16 billion.

Winds of 70 kilometres per hour hit emergency crews in the ruins of New Zealand's second largest city, hampering the search for bodies.

The conditions have been difficult, the wind is picking up and it's very dusty in the inner city, which is making the rescue efforts more difficult, a top police official was quoted as saying by local media reports.

Official death toll of the earthquake has now reached 160, according to the police.

Meanwhile, a leading Global re insurer Swiss Re has estimated that the insurers bill between USD 6 billion and USD 12 billion.

"The total insured claims for the insurance sector for the earthquake in New Zealand are estimated to be between USD 6 billion to USD 12 billion," the re insurer was quoted by media report.

Swiss Re added that the deadly catastrophe was expected to cost the Zurich-based outfit USD 800 million before tax.

The re insurer noted that costs to the industry were particularly high as take-up rates for earthquake insurance was significant in New Zealand.

It added that there remained uncertainties in its estimates and that the preliminary forecasts could yet be revised.

Canterbury district commander Superintendent Dave Cliff said that due to high winds in the city today, there was a lot of dust, debris and in some cases corrugated iron blowing around the city, which reinforced the importance of people staying out of the cordon area.

Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker had visited the hard-hit suburbs of Sumner, Mt Pleasant and Redcliffs today, and said his thoughts were with those people in the suburbs who had been worst-hit by liquefaction.

He said heat and wind had exacerbated the situation, making today "about as unpleasant as it is possible to make a day". Cliff said that this afternoon, the families of those still missing in the devastated CBD had the opportunity to visit sites where people are believed to be trapped.

He said 250 foreign nationals and 150 New Zealanders went on a "very emotional" bus tour to see first-hand the devastation.

"The mood was sombre and emotional but we think it was helpful for them to see the mammoth task Urban Search and Rescue teams have had to undertake.

"The visit came as the Red Cross announced the establishment of two grants - an emergency and hardship grant and a bereavement grant - for people affected by last week's devastating Christchurch earthquake.