Burial plans begin for 50 killed in Christchurch terror attack

In between etched headstones and bunches of colourful flowers are teams of armed police with their bushmaster rifles at the ready.

They're guarding what will be the final resting place for many who died in Friday's shootings.

Across the city a team of 90 disaster victim identification staff from around the world are working through the night to reunite the deceased with their loved ones.

Police Deputy Commissioner Wally Haumaha said police were working hard to reunite families with the bodies.

"The process has been very emotional and highly stressful for all and you can imagine the emotions are running high because in accordance with Islamic faith the families have wanted the bodies back as soon as possible."

Last night the first victim was formally identified, but at their families request remained behind with another loved one who was also killed, so they can be released together.

The process of returning loved ones to their families is complex and thorough and being overseen by Muslim leaders.

Sister Reihana says the spirits of the deceased are still very much alive.

"We believe in the eternal spirit of these beautiful people and children that lost their lives is not dead."

One of the crucial steps in Muslim burial rituals is the cleansing of the bodies.

It's being carried out at the morgue, men washing the men's bodies and women washing the women.

"We treat the body as if it's alive, we use only warm water and we cleanse it like we would as if we were about to pray."

When the cleansing is completed the burials will begin.

Some will be repatriated to their countries of origin, but many are likely to be laid to rest on the eastern flank of a cemetery in Linwood, a final resting spot facing the Islamic holy city of Mecca.