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Earthquake death toll rises to 75

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Emergency services search the rumble for survivors of the collapsed CTV building in Christchurch's business district (AP)

Emergency services search the rumble for survivors of the collapsed CTV building in Christchurch's business district (AP)

18-year-old Libby Manning is held by her father after being told there is no chance of survivors in CTV building in Christchurch (AP)

18-year-old Libby Manning is held by her father after being told there is no chance of survivors in CTV building in Christchurch (AP)

Members from the Grampian Fire and Rescue Service prepare to join the search-and-rescue effort in New Zealand

Members from the Grampian Fire and Rescue Service prepare to join the search-and-rescue effort in New Zealand

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Emergency services search the rumble for survivors of the collapsed CTV building in Christchurch's business district (AP)

Rescuers used their bare hands, dogs, and heavy machines in an urgent search for survivors still trapped in collapsed buildings more than 24 hours after an earthquake devastated one of New Zealand's largest cities.

The confirmed death toll from Tuesday's magnitude-6.3 quake centred near Christchurch rose to 75, and officials said it was almost sure to climb further. Some 300 people were listed as missing.

Prime minister John Key declared a national state of emergency as hundreds of soldiers, police and other emergency workers - including specialist teams from the US and other countries - rushed to Christchurch.

Parts of the city of 350,000 people lay in ruins, and all corners of it were suffering cuts to water supplies, power and phones. The city was virtually shut down, with officials urging residents to stay inside their homes.

The immediate focus was on about a dozen town centre buildings where finding survivors was still a possibility. In other places, rubble was being left untouched - even if bodies were thought buried there - until the urgency of the survivor search passes.

Near the smouldering remains of the Canterbury Television building, brother and sister Kent and Lizzy Manning sat on a rain-sodden patch of grass waiting for news of their mother, Donna, a television presenter who they had not heard from since the quake.

"My mum is superwoman, she'd do anything," said Lizzy Manning, 18, with tears running down her face. At that moment, a police official knelt down beside the pair. "I have some horrible news ...," the officer began, before telling the siblings that there was no hope for anyone left trapped inside the building.

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The siblings bowed their heads and wept. Their father rushed over and enclosed them in an embrace.

Officials pointed thermal cameras into the wreckage, and sniffer dogs clambered on top looking for signs of life.

Mayor Bob Parker said early that 120 people were rescued from wrecked buildings as teams worked through the night, while more bodies were also recovered. About 300 people were still unaccounted for, but this did not mean they were all still trapped, he said.


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