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New Zealand remembers 2011 quake victims
Thousands stand in silence in Christchurch park to commemorate first anniversary of earthquake that killed 185 people.
Last Modified: 22 Feb 2012 08:41
Two minutes of silence were observed at 12:51 local time; the exact moment the 6.3-magnitude quake struck (Reuters)

New Zealanders have been holding memorial services across the country to remember the 185 people who died in a powerful earthquake in Christchurch a year ago.

More than 10,000 people stood in silence, at a Christchurch park on Wednesday, as police officers and firefighters read out the names of those who died.

Two minutes of silence were observed at 12:51 local time; the exact moment the 6.3-magnitude quake struck.

The earthquake destroyed thousands of homes and much of downtown Christchurch, causing $25 billion in damage by the government's estimate.

John Key, the country's prime minister said the earthquake had "changed everything", but had not broken the city's spirit.

Speaking in the city, Key said it had been one of New Zealand's darkest days.

"People were huddled under blankets, sirens were blaring, and dust and smoke was thick in the air," he told mourners in the square, which was used as a makeshift medical centre on the day of the quake.

People across the city tossed flowers into the Avon River to remember those who died, while children released 185 monarch butterflies into the park.

'Heavy day'

Bob Parker, the mayor of Christchurch, told the crowd at the park that the city would never be the same again.

"This is a heavy day, heavy with emotion and loss."

 

The damage to Christchurch from the quake is expected to be at a cost of $25bn (Reuters)

 

He said people disagreed about how the city should be rebuilt, but added: "No city has ever been more strongly united in wanting to recover, rebuild, and once more be a great place to live and work.''

Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state who had visited Christchurch a few months before the quake, sent a video message that was played to the crowd.

"Even those of us who were far away on that terrible day share in your grief. And we know it's been a struggle," she said. "But through that struggle we've seen the strength and perseverance of the people of Christchurch."

Christchurch is home to about 350,000 people and is considered a tourist centre and gateway to the South Island.

Earthquakes are common in New Zealand, owing to the islands' location on the so-called 'Ring of Fire', a seismically active area which circles the Pacific Ocean. This zone sees a large number of earthquakes and volcanoes every year.

Source:
Agencies
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