TWO babies and dozens of foreign students are among at least 226 people listed as dead or missing in the Christchurch earthquake disaster.
Police said there were nearly 100 confirmed victims last night, but warned the toll could rise way beyond expectations.
Jayden Harris, nine months, and Baxter Gowland, five months, were confirmed as the earthquake’s youngest victims.
Baxter was born just two weeks after the first earthquake rocked Christchurch in September.
The second quake on Tuesday claimed his life.
Jayden Harris was crushed when a television set fell on him.
Jayden’s grandmother Linda Nash last night told of the family’s devastation. “He was just gorgeous. A smiley wee man. He had not even started to crawl but (mum) Tracey said he wasn’t far away, but obviously he did not get the chance,” she said.
The disaster did not discriminate. It killed television identities, businessmen, students and a tattooist as it shook Christchurch to its knees.
NZ Prime Minister John Key last night put his nation on notice that the toll could be even higher.
“We are very fearful tonight that the death toll could be much greater than anyone has ever feared,” he said.
Police said 98 people had been confirmed dead with 226 missing amid grave fears for their lives.
However, because identification has been complicated by the state of some victims, many of the 98 confirmed dead could be among the 226 missing.
Officials have earmarked the destroyed Canterbury Television building as the epicentre of the deaths – up to 120 people may have perished there. Among them are more than 50 Asian students – from China, Japan and the Philippines – caught in the building where English classes were held.
Supt Dave Cliff warned that no one was likely to emerge alive from the TV building. Just 23 bodies have been retrieved so far.
“The majority of the 98 who are confirmed deceased are expected to be included in the 226 that are missing,” he said.
Of the missing, he held grave fears for all of them, based on the checks already conducted by police. “We also need to to be prepared to accept that number may grow,” he said of the overall toll.
“Because there may be people from overseas who have not yet been reported missing to us.”
New Zealand media have named several victims of the disaster, including high-profile TV newsreader and producer Donna Manning, 42, whose teenage children maintained a vigil 50m from the rubble of the TV building yesterday.
An injured father who was walking down the street with his family when the quake struck, revealed his fears for his five-week-old baby. Glenn Pratley was walking with his sister Rochelle, partner Kelsey Moore, and his five-week-old daughter Tenisha when the earthquake struck.
The siblings were thrown through a shop window together and were knocked unconscious.
When they woke up, Ms Moore and Tenisha had disappeared.
A baby was reportedly killed on Tuesday as its mother fled in the heart of the city and Jaime Gilbert, the New Zealand Herald reported, was trapped under rubble while running from a city bar.
The huge death toll, based on current evidence is likely to peak between 200 and 300.
It acted as another blow to Christchurch, which suffered another series of rattling aftershocks last night, one of which was strong enough to cause further structural damage.
Herald Sun photographer David Caird was yesterday shown damage to smaller city buildings, one of which killed a man when bricks and cement fell on to the street.
“It’s obvious that other people in Christchurch are either still trapped or died this way across the city,” he said.
Christchurch mayor Bob Parker warned of worse to come. “This is the first of some very hard announcements,” he said.
“We need to be realistic about the scale of what has happened.”
Disaster victim identification experts who worked on Victoria’s Black Saturday victims will help the Christchurch coroner, Sue Johnson, identify the dead.
The city, meanwhile, remains in chaos, many residents without water, power and gas. Shops are running out of bottled water and some essential items.