Students from at least four countries across Asia are believed to have died in the collapse of a foreign language school during the Christchurch earthquake.
Friends and colleagues of the missing students huddled in a park across from the crumpled remains of the five-story building late Wednesday, offering one another comfort and consolation.
Officials earlier told bystanders outside the building, which also housed the offices of Canterbury TV, there was no hope that any occupants of the building had survived. Rescue crews were transferred to other sites where there was a better chance of finding people alive.
The school, known as the King's Education College, had been a popular destination for students across the region who hoped to improve their command of English. But for more than a dozen students from Japan, China,South Korea and India, that dream appears to have ended in a grisly death.
The largest group of students believed to have been trapped in the rubble was from Japan. A Japanese Embassy official told the New Zealand Press Association that 12 out of 23 individuals from the Toyama College of Foreign Languages in Japan have been accounted for, but 11 are still missing and feared to have been caught in the collapse.
The French news agency says another 13 Japanese students visiting in New Zealand were not in the building but still have not been accounted for.
In Seoul, the South Korean foreign ministry said two students from that nation are missing and believed to have been in the language school when it collapsed. The French agency identified them as a brother and sister, both in their 20s.
The ministry said two South Korean consuls are on the way to Christchurch to seek more information.
The Chinese embassy in New Zealand confirmed in interview with China Radio International that a Chinese woman was trapped in the building. It identified her as Lai Chang, a 27-year-old student from Guangzhou. It said she called her husband on her mobile phone from inside the building after the collapse but could not be reached again.
Reuters news agency said there were an undetermined number of Indian students attending the school. It quoted an Indian student identified only as Jeewah who said his friend was buried inside the building.