John Key Launches Quake Appeal

New Zealand’s prime minister John Key has announced the establishment of an international fund to help the victims of the Christchurch earthquake and help rebuild the city.

The official death toll stands at 147 and grave fears are held for an another 50 people.

More than 750 buildings in the central business district have been marked for demolition and another 900 have been damaged.

Mr Key said the national disaster insurance fund of more than NZ$6 billion ($4.4 billion) was likely to be decimated by the cost of rebuilding Christchurch and will need to be replenished.

He launched the Christchurch Earthquake Appeal, a global fundraiser for the recovery effort in the city and the Canterbury region, and urged people to give generously.

Mr Key says rebuilding Christchurch will not begin until aftershocks have ended.

Meanwhile, search and rescue teams are still working into the night, but optimism that survivors will be found is waning.

New Zealand’s Urban Rescue coordinator Bob Baxter says some search sites are being prioritised.

“The Urban Search and Rescue teams have now prioritised the remaining taskings for their crews based on police intelligence, including information from the families and other sources on the location of people known or thought to be in the CBD area,” he said.

“The sites of high survivability potential are at the top of that list.”

Families of those missing are spending another agonising night waiting on news of their loved ones.

A victim identification team has arrived from Thailand, and another group is coming from Britain on Monday to join specialists from New Zealand and Australia.

Police say they are hoping to release more names of the dead in the morning.

Coming to terms with tragedy

New Zealand’s former prime minister, Helen Clark, says the damage in Christchurch is on a par with what she saw after the Haiti earthquake.

Ms Clark says Christchurch has had the life squeezed out of it.

Anglican Archbishop David Moxon is in Christchurch helping people cope, and he says people are starting to come to terms with the tragedy.

“When I first arrived [there was] a sense of grief, numbness, shock, anxiety levels high,” he said.

“It’s still the case, but I’m noticing in more recent days a revival of courage, neighbourliness, mutual support, spontaneous acts of kindness.

“It’s as if the city is trying to recover its spirit in the face of a devastating tragedy.”

Water and power is being restored to some parts of the city, while many other areas are still going without.

Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker says people need to pull together and not over use essential services in order for the city to get through.

“What we are in is the most extraordinary savage, damaging, tragic, natural disaster potentially in the history of this country,” he said.

“We cannot get through it unless everybody plays their part and that means use the power and electricity sparingly – the same with the water and the same with any other services if you’re lucky enough to have those services.”

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