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Two Irish confirmed dead in New Zealand earthquake

Two Irish citizens are confirmed to have died in the New Zealand earthquake, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has said.

There had been serious concerns raised over the whereabouts of five Irish people after an earthquake devastated the South Island city Christchurch.

The DFA confirmed about 200 Irish citizens are believed to have been in the area when the powerful 6.3-magnitude tremor struck.

A spokesman said while there was general concern for about 70 of those, it had serious concerns for five.

As the emergency services worked throughout the night to free those trapped in collapsed buildings, consular staff in New Zealand and the Irish Embassy in Canberra are continuing to liaise with government officials and local authorities to establish if any further Irish were involved.

The devastating earthquake has left at least 75 dead and caused widespread destruction.

Anyone concerned over friends or family on the South Island can contact DFA's Consular Crisis Centre helpline on 01 418 0222.

They can also register the details of any holidaymakers or residents the department's travel registration system via www.dfa.ie.

Officials have warned it could be some time before full details of the casualties, including nationalities, will be known due to the extent of the damage in the city.

© Press Association