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Rescue workers climb onto the collapsed Pyne Gould Guinness Building in central Christchurch, New Zealand (AP)

Rescue workers climb onto the collapsed Pyne Gould Guinness Building in central Christchurch, New Zealand (AP)

Rescue workers sift through the debris of a collapsed building after an earthquake rocked Christchurch, New Zealand (AP)

Rescue workers sift through the debris of a collapsed building after an earthquake rocked Christchurch, New Zealand (AP)

The spire of the iconic stone Christchurch Cathedral toppled into a central city square during the earthquake (AP)

The spire of the iconic stone Christchurch Cathedral toppled into a central city square during the earthquake (AP)

CHRISTCHURCH, NEW ZEALAND - FEBRUARY 22:  Crushed cars are seen in a car parking building on February 22, 2011 in Christchurch, New Zealand. The 6.3 magnitude earthquake - an aftershock of the 7.1 magnitude quake on September 4 - struck 20km southeast of Christchurch at around 1pm local time, with initial reports suggesting damage and fatalities far exceeding the initial quake.  (Photo by Martin Hunter/Getty Images)

CHRISTCHURCH, NEW ZEALAND - FEBRUARY 22: Crushed cars are seen in a car parking building on February 22, 2011 in Christchurch, New Zealand. The 6.3 magnitude earthquake - an aftershock of the 7.1 magnitude quake on September 4 - struck 20km southeast of Christchurch at around 1pm local time, with initial reports suggesting damage and fatalities far exceeding the initial quake. (Photo by Martin Hunter/Getty Images)

Martin Hunter

CHRISTCHURCH, NEW ZEALAND - FEBRUARY 22:  A smashed car is seen in a car parking building on February 22, 2011 in Christchurch, New Zealand. The 6.3 magnitude earthquake - an aftershock of the 7.1 magnitude quake on September 4 - struck 20km southeast of Christchurch at around 1pm local time, with initial reports suggesting damage and fatalities far exceeding the initial quake.  (Photo by Martin Hunter/Getty Images)

CHRISTCHURCH, NEW ZEALAND - FEBRUARY 22: A smashed car is seen in a car parking building on February 22, 2011 in Christchurch, New Zealand. The 6.3 magnitude earthquake - an aftershock of the 7.1 magnitude quake on September 4 - struck 20km southeast of Christchurch at around 1pm local time, with initial reports suggesting damage and fatalities far exceeding the initial quake. (Photo by Martin Hunter/Getty Images)

Martin Hunter

CHRISTCHURCH, NEW ZEALAND - FEBRUARY 22:  Collapsed buildings and debris along Manchester Street on February 22, 2011 in Christchurch, New Zealand. The 6.3 magnitude earthquake - an aftershock of the 7.1 magnitude quake on September 4 - struck 20km southeast of Christchurch at around 1pm local time, with initial reports suggesting damage and fatalities far exceeding the initial quake.  (Photo by Martin Hunter/Getty Images)

CHRISTCHURCH, NEW ZEALAND - FEBRUARY 22: Collapsed buildings and debris along Manchester Street on February 22, 2011 in Christchurch, New Zealand. The 6.3 magnitude earthquake - an aftershock of the 7.1 magnitude quake on September 4 - struck 20km southeast of Christchurch at around 1pm local time, with initial reports suggesting damage and fatalities far exceeding the initial quake. (Photo by Martin Hunter/Getty Images)

Martin Hunter

CHRISTCHURCH, NEW ZEALAND - FEBRUARY 22:  Rescuers search for survivors in a collapsed building in Manchester Street on February 22, 2011 in Christchurch, New Zealand. The 6.3 magnitude earthquake - an aftershock of the 7.1 magnitude quake on September 4 - struck 20km southeast of Christchurch at around 1pm local time, with initial reports suggesting damage and fatalities far exceeding the initial quake.  (Photo by Martin Hunter/Getty Images)

CHRISTCHURCH, NEW ZEALAND - FEBRUARY 22: Rescuers search for survivors in a collapsed building in Manchester Street on February 22, 2011 in Christchurch, New Zealand. The 6.3 magnitude earthquake - an aftershock of the 7.1 magnitude quake on September 4 - struck 20km southeast of Christchurch at around 1pm local time, with initial reports suggesting damage and fatalities far exceeding the initial quake. (Photo by Martin Hunter/Getty Images)

Martin Hunter

CHRISTCHURCH, NEW ZEALAND - FEBRUARY 22:  A man runs for cover on February 22, 2011 in Christchurch, New Zealand. The 6.3 magnitude earthquake - an aftershock of the 7.1 magnitude quake on September 4 - struck 20km southeast of Christchurch at around 1pm local time, with initial reports suggesting damage and fatalities far exceeding the initial quake.  (Photo by Martin Hunter/Getty Images)

CHRISTCHURCH, NEW ZEALAND - FEBRUARY 22: A man runs for cover on February 22, 2011 in Christchurch, New Zealand. The 6.3 magnitude earthquake - an aftershock of the 7.1 magnitude quake on September 4 - struck 20km southeast of Christchurch at around 1pm local time, with initial reports suggesting damage and fatalities far exceeding the initial quake. (Photo by Martin Hunter/Getty Images)

Martin Hunter

CHRISTCHURCH, NEW ZEALAND - FEBRUARY 23: Bus covered in building debris on February 23, 2011 in Christchurch, New Zealand. The 6.3 magnitude earthquake - an aftershock of the 7.1 magnitude quake on September 4 - struck 20km southeast of Christchurch at around 1pm local time, with initial reports suggesting damage and fatalities far exceeding the initial quake.  (Photo by Martin Hunter/Getty Images)

CHRISTCHURCH, NEW ZEALAND - FEBRUARY 23: Bus covered in building debris on February 23, 2011 in Christchurch, New Zealand. The 6.3 magnitude earthquake - an aftershock of the 7.1 magnitude quake on September 4 - struck 20km southeast of Christchurch at around 1pm local time, with initial reports suggesting damage and fatalities far exceeding the initial quake. (Photo by Martin Hunter/Getty Images)

Martin Hunter

CHRISTCHURCH, NEW ZEALAND - FEBRUARY 22:  A man lies injured on Manchester street on February 22, 2011 in Christchurch, New Zealand. The 6.3 magnitude earthquake - an aftershock of the 7.1 magnitude quake on September 4 - struck 20km southeast of Christchurch at around 1pm local time, with initial reports suggesting damage and fatalities far exceeding the initial quake.  (Photo by Martin Hunter/Getty Images)

CHRISTCHURCH, NEW ZEALAND - FEBRUARY 22: A man lies injured on Manchester street on February 22, 2011 in Christchurch, New Zealand. The 6.3 magnitude earthquake - an aftershock of the 7.1 magnitude quake on September 4 - struck 20km southeast of Christchurch at around 1pm local time, with initial reports suggesting damage and fatalities far exceeding the initial quake. (Photo by Martin Hunter/Getty Images)

Martin Hunter

CHRISTCHURCH, NEW ZEALAND - FEBRUARY 22:  Collapsed buildings in Manchester Street on February 22, 2011 in Christchurch, New Zealand. The 6.3 magnitude earthquake - an aftershock of the 7.1 magnitude quake on September 4 - struck 20km southeast of Christchurch at around 1pm local time, with initial reports suggesting damage and fatalities far exceeding the initial quake.  (Photo by Martin Hunter/Getty Images)

CHRISTCHURCH, NEW ZEALAND - FEBRUARY 22: Collapsed buildings in Manchester Street on February 22, 2011 in Christchurch, New Zealand. The 6.3 magnitude earthquake - an aftershock of the 7.1 magnitude quake on September 4 - struck 20km southeast of Christchurch at around 1pm local time, with initial reports suggesting damage and fatalities far exceeding the initial quake. (Photo by Martin Hunter/Getty Images)

Martin Hunter

CHRISTCHURCH, NEW ZEALAND - FEBRUARY 22:  Cars covered in building debris on February 22, 2011 in Christchurch, New Zealand. The 6.3 magnitude earthquake - an aftershock of the 7.1 magnitude quake on September 4 - struck 20km southeast of Christchurch at around 1pm local time, with initial reports suggesting damage and fatalities far exceeding the initial quake.  (Photo by Martin Hunter/Getty Images)

CHRISTCHURCH, NEW ZEALAND - FEBRUARY 22: Cars covered in building debris on February 22, 2011 in Christchurch, New Zealand. The 6.3 magnitude earthquake - an aftershock of the 7.1 magnitude quake on September 4 - struck 20km southeast of Christchurch at around 1pm local time, with initial reports suggesting damage and fatalities far exceeding the initial quake. (Photo by Martin Hunter/Getty Images)

Martin Hunter

CHRISTCHURCH, NEW ZEALAND - FEBRUARY 23:  Rescue workers search for survivors on February 23, 2011 in Christchurch, New Zealand. The 6.3 magnitude earthquake - an aftershock of the 7.1 magnitude quake on September 4 - struck 20km southeast of Christchurch at around 1pm local time, with initial reports suggesting damage and fatalities far exceeding the initial quake.  (Photo by Martin Hunter/Getty Images)

CHRISTCHURCH, NEW ZEALAND - FEBRUARY 23: Rescue workers search for survivors on February 23, 2011 in Christchurch, New Zealand. The 6.3 magnitude earthquake - an aftershock of the 7.1 magnitude quake on September 4 - struck 20km southeast of Christchurch at around 1pm local time, with initial reports suggesting damage and fatalities far exceeding the initial quake. (Photo by Martin Hunter/Getty Images)

Martin Hunter

CHRISTCHURCH, NEW ZEALAND - FEBRUARY 22:  Collapsed buildings and debris are seen on Manchester Street on February 22, 2011 in Christchurch, New Zealand. The 6.3 magnitude earthquake - an aftershock of the 7.1 magnitude quake on September 4 - struck 20km southeast of Christchurch at around 1pm local time, with initial reports suggesting damage and fatalities far exceeding the initial quake.  (Photo by Martin Hunter/Getty Images)

CHRISTCHURCH, NEW ZEALAND - FEBRUARY 22: Collapsed buildings and debris are seen on Manchester Street on February 22, 2011 in Christchurch, New Zealand. The 6.3 magnitude earthquake - an aftershock of the 7.1 magnitude quake on September 4 - struck 20km southeast of Christchurch at around 1pm local time, with initial reports suggesting damage and fatalities far exceeding the initial quake. (Photo by Martin Hunter/Getty Images)

Martin Hunter

CHRISTCHURCH, NEW ZEALAND - FEBRUARY 22:  Collapsed buildings in Manchester Street on February 22, 2011 in Christchurch, New Zealand. The 6.3 magnitude earthquake - an aftershock of the 7.1 magnitude quake on September 4 - struck 20km southeast of Christchurch at around 1pm local time, with initial reports suggesting damage and fatalities far exceeding the initial quake.  (Photo by Martin Hunter/Getty Images)

CHRISTCHURCH, NEW ZEALAND - FEBRUARY 22: Collapsed buildings in Manchester Street on February 22, 2011 in Christchurch, New Zealand. The 6.3 magnitude earthquake - an aftershock of the 7.1 magnitude quake on September 4 - struck 20km southeast of Christchurch at around 1pm local time, with initial reports suggesting damage and fatalities far exceeding the initial quake. (Photo by Martin Hunter/Getty Images)

Martin Hunter

CHRISTCHURCH, NEW ZEALAND - FEBRUARY 22:  Rescue workers search for survivors through debris on February 22, 2011 in Christchurch, New Zealand. The 6.3 magnitude earthquake - an aftershock of the 7.1 magnitude quake on September 4 - struck 20km southeast of Christchurch at around 1pm local time, with initial reports suggesting damage and fatalities far exceeding the initial quake.  (Photo by Martin Hunter/Getty Images)

CHRISTCHURCH, NEW ZEALAND - FEBRUARY 22: Rescue workers search for survivors through debris on February 22, 2011 in Christchurch, New Zealand. The 6.3 magnitude earthquake - an aftershock of the 7.1 magnitude quake on September 4 - struck 20km southeast of Christchurch at around 1pm local time, with initial reports suggesting damage and fatalities far exceeding the initial quake. (Photo by Martin Hunter/Getty Images)

Martin Hunter

CHRISTCHURCH, NEW ZEALAND - FEBRUARY 22:  Collapsed buildings and debris are seen along Manchester Street on February 22, 2011 in Christchurch, New Zealand. The 6.3 magnitude earthquake - an aftershock of the 7.1 magnitude quake on September 4 - struck 20km southeast of Christchurch at around 1pm local time, with initial reports suggesting damage and fatalities far exceeding the initial quake.  (Photo by Martin Hunter/Getty Images)

CHRISTCHURCH, NEW ZEALAND - FEBRUARY 22: Collapsed buildings and debris are seen along Manchester Street on February 22, 2011 in Christchurch, New Zealand. The 6.3 magnitude earthquake - an aftershock of the 7.1 magnitude quake on September 4 - struck 20km southeast of Christchurch at around 1pm local time, with initial reports suggesting damage and fatalities far exceeding the initial quake. (Photo by Martin Hunter/Getty Images)

Martin Hunter

CHRISTCHURCH, NEW ZEALAND - FEBRUARY 22:  Rescue workers search for survivors on February 22, 2011 in Christchurch, New Zealand. The 6.3 magnitude earthquake - an aftershock of the 7.1 magnitude quake on September 4 - struck 20km southeast of Christchurch at around 1pm local time, with initial reports suggesting damage and fatalities far exceeding the initial quake.  (Photo by Martin Hunter/Getty Images)

CHRISTCHURCH, NEW ZEALAND - FEBRUARY 22: Rescue workers search for survivors on February 22, 2011 in Christchurch, New Zealand. The 6.3 magnitude earthquake - an aftershock of the 7.1 magnitude quake on September 4 - struck 20km southeast of Christchurch at around 1pm local time, with initial reports suggesting damage and fatalities far exceeding the initial quake. (Photo by Martin Hunter/Getty Images)

Martin Hunter

CHRISTCHURCH, NEW ZEALAND - FEBRUARY 22:  Rescuers search for survivors in a collapsed building in Manchester Street on February 22, 2011 in Christchurch, New Zealand. The 6.3 magnitude earthquake - an aftershock of the 7.1 magnitude quake on September 4 - struck 20km southeast of Christchurch at around 1pm local time, with initial reports suggesting damage and fatalities far exceeding the initial quake.  (Photo by Martin Hunter/Getty Images)

CHRISTCHURCH, NEW ZEALAND - FEBRUARY 22: Rescuers search for survivors in a collapsed building in Manchester Street on February 22, 2011 in Christchurch, New Zealand. The 6.3 magnitude earthquake - an aftershock of the 7.1 magnitude quake on September 4 - struck 20km southeast of Christchurch at around 1pm local time, with initial reports suggesting damage and fatalities far exceeding the initial quake. (Photo by Martin Hunter/Getty Images)

Martin Hunter

CHRISTCHURCH, NEW ZEALAND - FEBRUARY 22:  Rescuers search for survivors in a collapsed building in Manchester Street on February 22, 2011 in Christchurch, New Zealand. The 6.3 magnitude earthquake - an aftershock of the 7.1 magnitude quake on September 4 - struck 20km southeast of Christchurch at around 1pm local time, with initial reports suggesting damage and fatalities far exceeding the initial quake.  (Photo by Martin Hunter/Getty Images)

CHRISTCHURCH, NEW ZEALAND - FEBRUARY 22: Rescuers search for survivors in a collapsed building in Manchester Street on February 22, 2011 in Christchurch, New Zealand. The 6.3 magnitude earthquake - an aftershock of the 7.1 magnitude quake on September 4 - struck 20km southeast of Christchurch at around 1pm local time, with initial reports suggesting damage and fatalities far exceeding the initial quake. (Photo by Martin Hunter/Getty Images)

Martin Hunter

CHRISTCHURCH, NEW ZEALAND - FEBRUARY 22:  Rescuers search for survivors in a collapsed building in Manchester Street on February 22, 2011 in Christchurch, New Zealand. The 6.3 magnitude earthquake - an aftershock of the 7.1 magnitude quake on September 4 - struck 20km southeast of Christchurch at around 1pm local time, with initial reports suggesting damage and fatalities far exceeding the initial quake.  (Photo by Martin Hunter/Getty Images)

CHRISTCHURCH, NEW ZEALAND - FEBRUARY 22: Rescuers search for survivors in a collapsed building in Manchester Street on February 22, 2011 in Christchurch, New Zealand. The 6.3 magnitude earthquake - an aftershock of the 7.1 magnitude quake on September 4 - struck 20km southeast of Christchurch at around 1pm local time, with initial reports suggesting damage and fatalities far exceeding the initial quake. (Photo by Martin Hunter/Getty Images)

Martin Hunter

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Rescue workers climb onto the collapsed Pyne Gould Guinness Building in central Christchurch, New Zealand (AP)

Rescuers have worked through the night to reach people trapped in the rubble left by a powerful earthquake that struck one of New Zealand's largest cities.

Some screamed from inside collapsed buildings. One woman used her mobile phone to call her children to say goodbye, while others tapped on the rubble to communicate with those on the outside.

Search teams used dogs, heavy cranes and earth movers in Christchurch, trying frantically to pull away crumbled concrete, twisted metal and huge mounds of brick.

Prime minister John Key said at least 75 people have died in the quake and 300 are missing.

Christchurch Superintendent Russell Gibson said: "There are bodies littering the streets, they are trapped in cars, crushed under rubble and where they are clearly deceased our focus ... has turned to the living. We are getting texts and tapping sounds from some of these buildings and that's where our focus is."

Asked how many may still be trapped, Gibson said: "It could be another hundred - it could be more."

"We've been pulling 20 or 30 people out of (two) buildings right throughout the night" where it was known people were trapped, he told National Radio. At least another dozen collapsed commercial buildings were also being searched for survivors.

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Medical workers brought the injured to a triage centre set up in a park in central Christchurch, while military units patrolled near-empty streets disfigured by the huge cracks and canyons created in Tuesday's 6.3-magnitude quake, the second powerful shock to hit the city in five months.

A more powerful 7.1 magnitude earthquake hit Christchurch, a city of 350,000, on September 4, but caused no deaths.


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