23 February 2011
South African President Jacob Zuma has expressed his condolences to New Zealand after a devasting earthquake left scores dead in Christchurch, the largest city on New Zealand’s South Island, on Tuesday.
“We also wish to express our support to the government and people of New Zealand for the commitment, dedication and tenacity with which they are doing everything in their power to assist the affected inhabitants of the area,” Zuma said in a statement.
“We include in our prayers the families and friends of the unfortunate citizens who have perished in this natural disaster and hope that they will find solace in the outpouring of sympathy from people of goodwill from across the world,” added Zuma.
The 6.3-magnitude earthquake, centred 10 kilometres south-east of the city, struck at 12:51, and was followed by two powerful magnitude 5 aftershocks.
New Zealand Prime Minister John Key, who arrived in Christchurch on Tuesday afternoon after an emergency cabinet meeting in Wellington, said that at least 65 people had been killed in the earthquake.
He said it was “the darkest day” in New Zealand’s history.
Police have confirmed fatalities at several locations in the city, including in two buses that were crushed by falling buildings.
Police said other reports include multiple building collapses, fires in buildings in the central city, and numerous people reported trapped in buildings.
New Zealand National Civil Defence Controller, David Coetzee, said the damage was worse than the 7.1-magnitude quake on 4 September last year.
The New Zealand armed forces have been dispatched to the disaster zone to help the rescue efforts, while Australia has sent a search and rescue team to Christchurch to help the authorities deal with the aftermath of the quake.