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Christchurch earthquake: Two minutes' silence for victims - PM

Prime minister John Key (R) and mayor Bob Parker survey damage in the Christchurch CBD. Photo / Simon Baker
Prime minister John Key (R) and mayor Bob Parker survey damage in the Christchurch CBD. Photo / Simon Baker

Prime Minister John Key has asked all New Zealanders to observe two minutes' silence from 12.51pm on Tuesday, exactly one week after Christchurch's deadly earthquake, to honour quake victims.

The death toll following Canterbury's magnitude 6.3 quake is 145 and police say that number will rise.

More than 200 people are listed as missing.

Canterbury police chief Dave Cliff yesterday said the toll increased from 123 after 22 more bodies were found.

"We expect that number to rise as the search and rescue teams progressively find more and more deceased," he told a press conference.

Mr Cliff said he was aware families were concerned about how long it was taking to identity victims, but the disaster victim identification team was going as fast as it possibly could.

Police held two meetings with families yesterday - one with overseas families and one with locals.

"We have tied up each of the families with a liaison officer, one of our police officers, so when there is specific information about the identity of a loved one and that person is in our possession, we will be doing everything humanly possible to get that loved one back to their family as soon as we can," he said.

"We will move heaven and earth to do that, but the biggest concern we have is returning the wrong loved one to the wrong family, and that is a risk we just don't even want to think about."

Police were working with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade to get information from consular officials that would help identify foreign nationals.

Mr Key has said Tuesday's earthquake may be New Zealand's single most tragic event in its history.

"I am calling on all New Zealanders to stop and remember those who have lost their lives, those who are missing, and the hundreds of people who are mourning family and friends," he said.

"At 12.51pm this Tuesday, the 1st of March, I am asking that New Zealand stops for two minutes as a sign of unity for the people of Canterbury who are enduring a tragedy beyond what most of us can imagine.

"Canterbury will recover and we will do all we can to ensure it does.

"For now, we must do all we can to show its people that all of New Zealand grieves with them."

Meanwhile, police have urged people to stay off Christchurch roads, so that essential services are not held up.

They also say the risk of bricks and windows falling from windows in the central city remains high and people should stay away from the CBD.

Civil Defence director John Hamilton has said the scale of the response to the emergency has been huge, with a fantastic response, under trying conditions, from many people.

- NZPA

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