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New Zealand Ends Search for Earthquake Survivors

Team Leader of the Japan Disaster Relief Team Yukio Numata speaks to the media about search operations in the aftermath of the earthquake in Christchurch, March 3, 2011

Authorities in New Zealand say they have abandoned hope of finding any more survivors in the rubble of last week's devastating earthquake in the city of Christchurch.

Civil Defense chief John Hamilton told reporters Thursday the rescue effort has "regrettably" reached the point where it now shifts to recovering bodies, as there is no chance that anyone trapped in the ruins is still alive.

The official death toll from the February 22 disaster now stands at 161 people and authorities expect the number to reach about 240, including dozens of students from across Asia.

Seventy people were rescued from the rubble in the hours immediately after the 6.3 magnitude earthquake, but no one has been found alive since the day after the quake.

Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker said the end of the rescue effort marks "a terrible day" for the city and the families of those still missing.

The list of the missing include more than 60 students at a foreign language school housed in the Canterbury TV building, one of two buildings that completely collapsed during the quake. The missing students include 28 from Japan, 21 from China, nine from the Philippines, six from Thailand, two from South Korea and one each from Taiwan and Serbia.

Prime Minister John Key has promised a full investigation into the collapse of the CTV building, which was inspected and approved for use after an earlier earthquake last September.

Authorities have released the identities of the first two foreigners killed in the quake, both of them from Israel.