There has been harrowing evidence heard at the Coroner’s inquest into the deaths of 6 foreign nationals who were in the CTV building when it collapsed in the Christchurch Earthquake.
Police Sergeant Mike Brooklands is giving evidence at the inquest in Christchurch.
He was in charge of the police response at the CTV site in the early stages.
He told the inquest of coming across a survivor not long after arriving at the scene.
"She kept saying 'I'm still here'. There was real desperation in her voice. The smoke became so thick that it kept overpowering us to the point that I was physically sick. I recall getting onto the radio at this time and telling police communications that if we didn't get a fire truck here soon that people would be burnt alive."
Police have today admitted the first officers to arrive at the scene of the collapsed CTV building were unprepared to handle the scene, but did the best they could in the circumstances.
Inspector John Price is giving evidence at the Coroner's inquest, and says police were there within minutes of the collapse trying to perform rescues.
"The general duties and criminal investigation staff who arrived on site within minutes of the building collapse were not equipped nor trained to deal with such an event. They simply did what was required, with what was available to them at the time."
The Coroner's inquest into the deaths of six of the victims of the CTV building collapse started earlier today with an acknowledgement to the family members in court who lost loved ones.
The inquest will spend the next two weeks looking into the deaths of six foreign nationals who were trapped inside the building when it collapsed after the February earthquake - and the initial emergency response.
They were from Serbia, the Philippines and Japan.
Counsel Assisting the Coroner Richard Raymond extended their sincere condolences to all family members.
"We acknowledge how difficult it must be for you to comprehend the terrible and heartbreaking circumstances. I hope you'll also be able to gain a better appreciation for the circumstances which confronted the many men and women who attended to assist in whatever way they could."
Further information from APNZ reports that police had also admitted the earthquake had "overwhelmed" their communication system.
According to APNZ, Price, who stepped in to take charge of the police communication centre in the chaotic aftermath of the quake hitting, made the frank admission at a coroner's inquest into the deaths of CTV Building victims this morning.
"The demand for services clearly exceeded the normal response capability of police, however we adapted and met the demand, despite the significant pressures the police, as emergency services, faced," he said.
A review of the communications system is underway.
Inspector Price said there were standard operating procedures for gathering information after a natural disaster, but it was not designed to cope with an event on the scale of the quake that hit at 12.51pm on February 22, 2011.
"We needed to think on our feet and come up with a model that worked based on the circumstances," he said.
The scale of the disaster meant it was difficult to ascertain what was happening across the city, and how to best deploy available resources. The "huge volume" of calls also caused problems for the police radio networks, Inspector Price said.
Giving evidence, the operations commander talked the inquest through graphs which highlighted the volume of calls that police were receiving from the panicked population.
On an average day, police would receive around 250 calls a day - but on February 22 received 3022.
The volume of calls was "overwhelming", he accepted while under questioning from counsel assisting police, Christopher Lange.
And while police were trying to deal with hundreds of missing persons reports, and prioritising resources, they were still getting callouts to other crime, including burglaries.
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