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Dean weeps as no bodies found

Radio NZ and Taonga News  |  04 Mar 2011  |

Recovery teams have completed searching ChristChurch Cathedral and have found no bodies there.

Dean Peter Beck said this morning that he was speechless when given the news.

He had received a phone call from the recovery team at 1am, and assumed that he was being called to say prayers over bodies as they were recovered.

When told that there were in fact no bodies, he burst into tears.

"I thank God for this," he said this morning. "But I still hold in my heart the many, many people who have been killed."

Superintendent Sandra Manderson told Morning Report that she was trying to find the origin of initial estimates that up to 22 people were in the tower vicinity when the earthquake struck.

She said it's highly likely that the estimated final death toll will now be revised downwards.

The official toll is currently 165, following the discovery of two more bodies at the CTV building on Friday.

Supt Manderson said the recovery teams were elated to have cleared the site and to have found no further bodies.

Dean Beck said he didn't know where the original estimate of 22 people came from. 

"There were anecdotal stories about people on the viewing platform," he said, but he personally was never convinced that there were as many as 22 people at risk.

"This is good news," he said, "but at the same time we are in deep mourning for others."

Dean Beck praised the recovery teams for the painstaking and meticulous job they had done in the cathedral.

He said he had given the teams two priorities at the cathedral, the first of which was to take care of themselves "because it's a very dangerous environment to be in".

He had also asked that they take any bodies "as gently and as gracefully as you can".

"I couldn't ask for a more dedicated and committed group of people doing that work," Dean Beck said.

The search and rescue workers were "astounded" not to have found anyone in the cathedral, spokesman Paul Baxter said.

"It was quite a surreal feeling for them; obviously they were expecting to find people because of the reports."

Earlier, Dean Beck told the New Zealand Herald that the recovery workers had made their way into the second storey of the structure and retrieved three of the spire's bells.

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