'It's taking too long’: Anxious families await news of missing loved ones caught in Christchurch attack
CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand: More than 24 hours after the deadly Christchurch attack on Friday (Mar 15), some family members are still waiting to find out what has happened to missing loved ones who were in the mosques.
Family members told Channel NewsAsia that authorities are still moving bodies from the mosques to Christchurch Hospital, and only have the names of those being treated at the hospital.
The deadly shootings at the Al Noor and Linwood mosques left at least 49 dead and dozens more injured.
The suspect, named in court as 28-year-old Australian national Brenton Tarrant, has been charged with one count of murder, but the judge said this will inevitably rise.
On a gloomy Saturday afternoon, family members waited for updates inside the Hagley College compound, which served as an information centre for victims of the attack.
Armed police and emergency personnel stood outside the centre, which was located just a few blocks from the hospital.
Mr Mohammad Safi, 23, said his father was in Al Noor mosque during the attack.
“I don’t think he made it, but I still have hope,” he told Channel NewsAsia.
Mr Safi said he had gone to the centre to ask about his father, but officials there told him they were “still checking”.
“I don’t know why it’s taking so long,” he said, a hint of anger appearing in his voice.
“They want to ‘investigate’. Investigate what exactly? The terrorist himself stated (that he did it). What else is there to investigate? I just don’t understand.”
Bangladeshi Suman Miah, 38, said he has three friends who were in the same mosque but are still unaccounted for.
At the centre, he said officials told him they needed to “follow the process”, adding that it would be about five hours more before they could give him more information and possibly release the bodies.
Mr Suman said he just wanted closure.
“It’s taking too long; very slow,” he said, glumly. “Because it happened yesterday. But until now we did not get any feedback.”
When asked if he was hopeful that his three friends were still alive, he said: “Maybe not.”
“They only have the list of those in hospital,” he added. “If the name is not there, it means ... they are most likely dead.”
Both Mr Safi and Mr Suman were working when they first heard the news.
Mr Safi, who was delivering goods as a courier driver, said his friend called him about the attack.
He immediately checked on his mother, and was relieved to find her at home. But he knew his father was at the mosque.
“I spent the whole night at the hospital just waiting for news of my dad,” he said. “But still nothing.”
Mr Suman was working as a welder fitter when his housemate texted him about the shootings.
“I don’t know what to feel,” he said. “We are really upset about it.”