The New Zealand Fire Service has defended the search and rescue effort in the wake of last February’s Christchurch earthquake after it was criticised at a commission of inquiry.
A lawyer for Srecko Cvetanov, whose doctor wife died after the CTV building collapsed, told a hearing of the Canterbury Earthquakes Royal Commission that search and rescue workers made mistakes trying to save people trapped in the building.
Mr Cvetanov wants the inquiry to consider the rescue attempts in the quake aftermath.
His lawyer, Nigel Hampton QC said: “The Shaky Islands remain shaky, and ever will be, and lessons (into search and rescue) should be learnt.”
Tamara Cvetanova and four Filipino women at a language school on the third floor of the CTV building died after the earthquake.
Mrs Cvetanova survived the initial collapse and was in contact by mobile phone with her husband and rescuers for at least 12 hours after the quake.
“All five women died as a result of inaction, or inept or inappropriate actions – even though these actions were of the very best intentions,” Mr Hampton said.
Fire Service national commander Paul Baxter did not agree with Mr Hampton and said staff risked their lives to save others.
“Frontline personnel in Christchurch went above and beyond what is normally expected, showing incredible courage and providing an outstanding service to the public under very difficult and hazardous conditions. If staff had not taken such risks, I’m sure more lives may have been lost,” he said.
Mr Baxter said he was confident evidence given to inquiries would show the response was appropriate given its scale.
The commission’s terms of reference restrict it to focusing on the collapse of specific buildings and building regulations.
It excludes investigation into “the role and response of any person acting under the Civil Defence Emergency Management Act 2002, or providing any emergency or recovery services or other response, after the 22 February 2011 aftershock”.