News World Families prepare to bury Christchurch massacre victims

Families prepare to bury Christchurch massacre victims

The all victim's bodies are expected to be returned by Wednesday.
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Relatives of the Christchurch mosque attack victims are preparing to  bury their loved ones Monday as residents of the New Zealand return to their jobs and schools.

Police said heavily armed officers and helicopters that have patrolled the city for days will remain deployed as a precaution after Friday’s massacre left 50 dead and 50 more injured.

Authorities on Monday morning said 33 people were still in hospital being treated for gunshot wounds, with nine in a critical condition.

“The public wants to go back to school, work, their recreational activities,” Police Commissioner Mike Bush said.

“It’s the role of New Zealand police to enable people to do that,” Mr Bush said.

Meanwhile, burials are expected to begin shortly as authorities plan to release victim’s bodies after families were called in to see the dead on Sunday night.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the bodies of a small number of victims would start to be returned to families from Sunday night, with all to be returned by Wednesday.

Mr Bush told media that police were highly aware of concerns among some in the Muslim community that the time taken to examine the bodies has prevented the swift burials called for under Islam.

“So we are doing that as quickly and as sensitively as possible,” he said.

Heavy machinery was being used to meet the task of digging the graves in the city’s Muslim cemetery.

Javed Dadabhai, whose cousin was killed in the attack, travelled from Auckland to help organise the funerals and said the need for a thorough investigation was clear.

“Those family members who require the grieving, their grieving process isn’t beginning,” he said.

“But we need to give [authorities] all the time they need for investigations. … We wouldn’t want to think that because of some pressure or haste from our community that we’re going to put the police in a situation they’ll regret later.”

Work is underway digging graves in Christchurch’s Muslim cemetery. Photo: Getty

In New Zealand’s capital, politicians will be turning their attention to both condolence and analysis.

Ms Ardern has declared she will push ahead with tightening the laws around gun control and is set to discuss the matter with her cabinet.

There are an estimated 1.5 million firearms in the country, about one gun for every three people.

Opposition leader Simon Bridges, whose National Party was previously criticised by the Police Association over a failure to tighten gun laws, on Monday told Radio NZ he was open to change.

Ms Ardern will also be asking questions about why Australian-born white supremacist Brenton Tarrant – currently charged as the sole perpetrator behind the twin attacks – was not on security watchlists in her country or Australia.

Authorities have confirmed the 28-year-old – who is from Grafton in NSW and had been living in Dunedin – is so far the only person charged over the attack, others arrested are now not thought to have been involved.

“He will certainly face the justice system of New Zealand for the terrorist attack that he has committed here,” Ms Ardern told reporters.

Ms Ardern has asked why the gunman was not on any watchlist. Photo: ABC

Tarrant’s family apologised for his actions on Sunday.

“It’s just so much of everything to take in that somebody in our family would do anything like this,” Tarrant’s 81-year-old grandmother, Marie Fitzgerald, said, adding that he was “obviously not of sound mind”.

A 22-year man, who police say was not involved in the attack, will appear in court on Monday charged with distributing objectionable material, believed to be a video of the shooting.

Facebook says it has taken down 1.5 million copies of the footage.

Meanwhile, the youngest victim of the shootings, three-year-old Mucaad Ibrahim, is being remembered as a “youthful, energetic child who always seemed to be laughing”.

Stories of heroism have also emerged after the attack.

Abdul Aziz, 48, has been applauded after he scared the shooter away from the Linwood mosque to protect dozens inside, including his four sons.

An outpouring of grief across the nation continued on Sunday as an estimated 11,000 people turned out for a vigil in Wellington, while Ms Ardern attended a wreath-laying at a mosque in the capital.

Flowers continued to pile up around mosques, which remain heavily guarded.

-With ABC