OCEANIA/NEW ZEALAND - Rescue teams arrived in Christchurch: 300 people unaccounted for, mostly tourists; search continues among the rubble

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Wellington (Agenzia Fides) – “Rescue teams from six countries have arrived today in Christchurch, New Zealand, to join in the relentless race to find survivors under the rubble caused by the 6.3 earthquake that literally ‘hit’ the city at lunchtime on Monday 21st February,” Fr Paul Shannahan, sm, National Director of the Pontifical Mission Societies in New Zealand reports to Fides. “Seven teams are struggling to uncover an estimated 300 people unaccounted for, many of them tourists who were staying the CBD area. Grave fears are held for a class of Japanese students studying at an English language school. So far 75 bodies have been recovered including people who were viewing the city in the now collapsed spire of the iconic Anglican Cathedral. So far 23 aftershocks measuring over 4.0 on the Richter scale have continued to bombard the city area and make the dangerous work of recovery even more hazardous. Up to 1,000 tourists have elected to terminate their holiday in New Zealand even though the earthquakes are confined to the South Island.” Fr Shannahan invites the global community following this tragedy to unite in prayer for the people who have lost their lives and for the thousands injured and traumatised.
Archbishop Philip Wilson of Adelaide, President of the Australian Bishops' Conference, in a communication sent to Fides, sends Bishop Barry Jones of Christchurch, a message of condolence for all the people affected by the earthquake and for the victims' families. “It is with great sadness that the Bishops of Australia and the Catholic people of this nation watch the unfolding events following the massive earthquake in Christchurch yesterday,” reads the text. “The proximity of our countries and the solidarity we share in times of disaster lead us to feel enormous grief for what your people are experiencing. We extend our heartfelt thoughts to you, and hope that in the midst of this, you can find peace and solace. You and the people of Christchurch are very much in our prayers at this time, and we pray that our Lord will continue to accompany you.” Prayers for the earthquake victims and survivors may be sent to email: pmsnz@xtra.co.nz. (AP) (23/2/2011 Agenzia Fides)