A steady stream of mourners have paid tribute at a makeshift memorial to those slain by a gunman at two mosques in Christchurch as the death toll yesterday climbed to 50 people.
Hundreds of flowers were piled up amid candles and notes of grief outside the Al Noor mosque.
Dozens of Muslims stood by to bury the dead when authorities release the victims’ bodies following New Zealand’s deadliest shooting in modern history on Friday.
Islamic law calls for bodies to be cleansed and buried as soon as possible after death, usually within 24 hours.
Authorities sent in excavators to dig graves in a site that was fenced off and blocked from view with white netting.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said authorities hoped to release all the bodies by Wednesday.
Police Commissioner Mike Bush said authorities were working with pathologists and coroners to complete the task as soon as they could.
“We have to be absolutely clear on the cause of death and confirm their identity before that can happen,” Mr Bush said. “But we are so aware of the cultural and religious needs. So we are doing that as quickly and as sensitively as possible.”
Brenton Tarrant, 28, appeared in court on Saturday charged with murder and was remanded until 5 April. Police said further charges would follow.
Mr Bush did not rule out further suspects.
Two people arrested after the attacks were not believed to have been involved, police said. One has been released and another charged with a separate offence. Another person was taken into custody “due to evidence collected during the investigation” but there was “no information to suggest” they were linked to the attacks.
A 50th body was discovered at the Al Noor mosque yesterday.
Thirty-four people remain in hospital with injuries, with a dozen of them in intensive care. A four-year-old girl taken to Starship Hospital in Auckland remains in a critical condition.
It has been reported Tarrant travelled to Britain during a two-month tour of Europe in which he visited battlegrounds and cities connected to historic wars between Christians and Muslims.
Tarrant is believed to have visited the UK for several weeks.
Ms Ardern revealed her office was among several recipients of a so-called manifesto by the suspected gunman.
The document was received by email by her office nine minutes before the first shots were fired.
She said: “I was one of more than 30 recipients ... it did not include location. It did not include specific details.”
Tarrant, an Australian citizen, live-streamed the terror attack on social media. Facebook said it had removed 1.5 million videos of the attack in the 24 hours after the shootings.