Recovery operation begins after Christchurch earthquake

By staff writers
22 Feb 2011

Hundreds of Christchurch residents have been spending the night in the city's parks after the massive earthquake that hit the New Zealand city.

Prime Minister John Key is warning the death toll of 65 is likely to rise after the 6.3-magnitude 'quake struck country's second largest city at around 12:50pm local time, reports ABC News.

Helicopters and cranes have already plucked terrified survivors from danger, but more than 100 are still missing after scores of buildings were reduced to rubble within seconds.

The spire of the city's historic cathedral also crashed to the ground in the second major quake to hit Christchurch in five months.

Cold temperatures and rain is making it harder for the people gathered at evacuation centres.

Power cuts have been widespread, and the city has run out of ambulances. Some 5.6-magnitude aftershocks were also recorded.

Meanwhile, aid agencies have sprung into action, Australia has sent search and rescue teams, and on-the-spot assistants continue to scrabble through the ruins of collapsed buildings in search of survivors.

The Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, the Rt Rev John Christie, has written an open letter to the victims of the New Zealand 'quake, via the country's churches.

He writes: "News and pictures are beginning to tell something of the damage which has been caused and the loss of life which has occurred.

"There is little that any of us can do - especially from this distance - except to say that all involved will be upheld in our prayers.

"We remember particularly the families who have been bereaved, as well as those who are injured; rescuers, medical staff, colleagues in ministry and everyone who is involved in the aftermath of this tragedy. Please accept the assurance of our prayers and thoughts."

[Ekk/3]

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