New Zealand marks one year since devastating Christchurch earthquake
Published 22/02/2012 | 08:04
Tears flowed as New Zealanders marked the first anniversary of the deadly Christchurch earthquake, standing in silent tribute to the victims.
Two minutes' silence was observed across the country at 12.51pm, the moment the magnitude 6.3 quake struck on February 22, 2011.
In Christchurch, more than 20,000 people filled the tree-lined Hagley Park as a Maori warrior blew on a conch shell to open a national service of remembrance.
Many hugged and wept, or locked arms and stood with heads bowed, as the names of all 185 people who died were read out one by one, followed by the silence and prayers.
With the New Zealand flag fluttering at half-mast, Sir Jerry Mateparae, the Governor-General, told the hushed crowd: "We have gathered to remember all that we have lost, all that has changed.
"Those who died are not forgotten.
"Their names are etched in our memories and on our memorials."
Sir Jerry went on to deliver a moving message from Prince Charles.
"It was with rising horror that my wife and I watched the unfolding scenes of devastation that so disfigured this beautiful city and the pain and desolation of those who lost family, friends and colleagues," the Prince wrote.
"The spirit of determination, of courage and of good humour that so characterises the people of New Zealand will, I am sure, have held you steady as you go about the slow process of rebuilding your city and your lives."
As a choir sang You Raise Me Up, a group of children released 185 strikingly colourful monarch butterflies into the air.
Sir Jerry had told the crowd each butterfly would represent "a person who died, a soul departed" as well as a symbol of rebirth and renewal.
Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State, added her own message in a televised address, praising the strength of the city's residents.
Bob Parker, the Mayor of Christchurch, told the crowd: "Let us work together to rebuild a city fit for heroes.
"No city has ever been more strongly united in wanting to recover, rebuild, and once more be a great place to live and work."
The day of commemoration began with a morning service for the bereaved families in the city's Latimer Square, which became a temporary base for emergency services after the quake struck.
John Key, the Prime Minister, told them: "The earthquake wreaked havoc on an unimaginable scale, shook us to the core, stole 185 loved ones from us and injured so many more.
In the grassy square, still overlooked by ruined buildings, he said February 22, 2011 would go down in history as "one of our darkest days".