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New Zealand remembers quake victims

New Zealand has held two minutes' silence to mark exactly one week since the earthquake devastated the city of Christchurch.

Rescue crews still picking through the rubble retrieving bodies were among those who stopped work and bowed their heads, along with millions of other people across the country at 12.51 local time on Tuesday.

The magnitude 6.3 quake brought down or badly damaged office towers, churches and thousands of homes and other buildings in the city of 350,000 in one of New Zealand's worst disasters.

Prime Minister John Key called on all New Zealanders to stop what they were doing and join the commemoration "as a sign of unity for the people of Canterbury who are enduring a tragedy beyond what most of us can imagine". Canterbury is the region where Christchurch is located.

In the city, police, officials dressed in reflective vests and residents stood quietly, some with heads bowed, others clutching friends and family. At the end of the two minutes, a voice over a loudspeaker thanked people for taking part, and the officials went back to work.

On Monday, a five-month-old boy who was the youngest known victim of the disaster was its first laid to rest, given a farewell by grieving relatives who clutched stuffed toys.

Meanwhile, the final death toll from the New Zealand earthquake could be as high as 240 people, police said.

The official death toll from the February 22 quake near Christchurch is 154 based on the number of bodies pulled from the rubble.

But police Superintendent Dave Cliff said a substantial number of people are still missing one week after the disaster. He did not provide exact numbers for the missing.

Cliff told reporters that "we need to start considering the figure of around 240" as the final death toll.


From Belfast Telegraph