New Zealand said on Thursday that up to 12 Christchurch earthquake victims whose remains have not been identified may be buried in a mass grave.
A total of 181 people were missing presumed dead after the 6.3-magnitude quake devastated New Zealand's second largest city on February 22 and all but 12 had been identified, chief coroner Neil McLean said.
McLean said that it may prove impossible to put names to all the remains, which consist largely of bone fragments and teeth.
He said that while every effort would be made to identify the victims, including DNA testing, a mass grave might prove necessary.
Authorities were forced to bury unidentified remains in a mass grave following the 1979 Mount Erebus disaster, when an Air New Zealand flight crashed in Antarctica, killing 257 people, McLean said.
"It was a similar situation at Erebus. Eventually there were unidentified remains which, as I understand it, were buried in some sort of mass grave. Now that's one option," he told radio station Newstalk ZB.
McLean said that all of the unidentified Christchurch victims died in the Canterbury Television building, which housed a language school filled with mainly Asian students, that collapsed and burst into flames when the quake hit.
He said that discussions with the victims' families would be held before any decision on burying them in a mass grave was made.