Rescue efforts have continued overnight after yesterday's 6.3 magnitude earthquake in Christchruch.
Christchurch City Council says 220 search and rescue personnel will be deployed throughout Christchurch by midday today (Wednesday). It expects 700 of the rescue specialists could be needed in the coming days.
Prime Minister John Key told ONE News last night: "We may well be witnessing New Zealand's darkest day," he said.
"It is just a scene of utter devastation," he said. "We have to work as fast as we can to get people out of environments where they are trapped."
Key flew to Christchurch yesterday afternoon and after a quick tour of the city described it as "utterly wrecked", adding "this is an absolute tragedy for Christchurch".
See aerial pictures .
At 2:30am the council said 90 extra St John's staff will be in Christchurch today and seven rescue helicopters are on stand by to transport injured people.
The official death toll from the Christchurch earthquake has now been confirmed as to 32.
Prime Minister John Key yesterday put the number of dead at 65, but that figure has been almost halved this morning.
Hamilton said that is because only 32 deaths have been confirmed
Rescue efforts continue
Overnight, rescue teams toiled under floodlights in cold, wet conditions.
They are working to dig out survivors and the dead from buildings flattened by the earthquake that ripped the city apart.
It is believed over 100 people are missing. Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker said last night that about 125 people had been pulled alive from the rubble.
Police have reported "multiple fatalities" at several locations in the downtown area, including in two buses crushed by falling buildings.
Emergency services were focused on high rise buildings in the central business district, many of which were extensively damaged, police said.
About 30 people were thought to be trapped in the Pyne Gould building, its several floors pancaked on each other and tilted at a crazy angle.
In the ruined CTV television building a number of Japanese students, newly arrived in Japan, were believed to be in the rubble.
One injured man rescued from the building was quoted as saying he could hear other people talking.
The devastated CBD was cordoned off tonight and police warned people to stay away.
Scale of disaster
The death toll is already the second highest from a New Zealand earthquake - outranked only by the 256 people killed in the violent 7.9 1931 Hawke's Bay quake, whose 70th anniversary was marked earlier this month.
The quake followed the massive 7.1 shake on September 4 last year but its effect were much more severe this time. Buildings that stood up to last year's event tumbled this time, weakened by the earlier shaking.
Deputy Prime Minister Bill English, who spoke after cabinet's second emergency meeting, said the death toll figure of 65 would almost certainly rise.
"The scale of the disaster is becoming apparent," he said at a press conference.
"There is a major search and rescue operation under way and our focus is on searching collapsed buildings."
Although the damage was heavy in the CBD many other parts of the city suffered too, homes heavily damaged or destroyed, shops and office buildings destroyed.
State of emergency
Key has taken up the offer of search and rescue personnel from Australia with two of their Royal Australian Airforce C-130 Hercules aircraft heading for the quake zone. Other offers of help have been received from the US, the UN, the European Union and Japan.
Approximately 350 local military personnel have been deployed in Christchurch, providing first aid, security and search and rescue services.
Police say over 200 staff, including officers skilled in disaster victim identification roles are travelling to Christchurch as part of the emergency response with another 130 expected to travel in the next few days.
Parker has declared a state of emergency and Civil Defence HQ in Wellington is on level 3 - its highest level for a domestic incident.
South Island hospitals are preparing for hundreds of injured patients.
Water, sewer and gas lines were ruptured by the quake and power lines and poles crashed, cutting electricity to one third of the city.
The council says 80% of the city is without water supply and it is a "serious concern".
Citizens were asked not to flush toilets or take showers and warned to boil all water for drinking.
Telephone services were cut as anxious callers overloaded circuits and Vodafone and Telecom are urging customers to use text messaging instead of calling.
Emergency services are recommending people stay away from work or school for three days and to keep travel to an absolute minimum.
Key said: "This is a community that is absolutely in agony. We
just need this community, as it has done before and as it will do
again, to come together, to check and support one another.
"We will get through this. New Zealand will regroup and Christchurch will regroup."
Parker said: "The PM has already released the the first list of casualty figures and I'm dreadfully afraid to have to say that that number is going to rise.
"I've seen probably 20, 25 buildings of significant size with extraordinary damage, probably total damage to them."
In a briefing at 9.00pm, Parker said the situation was "extremely grave".
"All of our energy tonight is really focused on the need to rescue people."
Earlier tonight a ONE News reporter in Hagley Park spoke to people at the park who say they saw people die. One man said he saw rubble crush a man in Cathedral Square. Another man said he
pulled a dead man from a destroyed car.
Another TVNZ reporter says a temporary mortuary has been set up in the city.
- Widespread destruction
- 65 confirmed dead so far
- 6.3 quake at shallow depth of 5km at 12.51pm
- Aftershocks continue
- Level 3 emergency declared
- International rescue teams deployed
Finance Minister Bill English said he has signed special approval for emergency spending under the Public Finance Act.
"This will enable government agencies to spend extra money as necessary that may not be covered by the existing parliamentary arrangements," he said.
The shock was at a depth of just 5km, centred 10km south-east of
The quake has been felt as far away as Wellington and Invercargill.
The Queen has sent a message of support to John Key in which she said she was "utterly shocked" by the news of the earthquake.
"Please convey my deep sympathy to the families and friends of those who have been killed; my thoughts are with all those who have been affected by this dreadful event," she said. "My thoughts are also with the emergency services and everyone who is assisting in the rescue efforts."
Australia's Deputy Prime Minister Wayne Swan said the thoughts of Australians were with the victims of the Christchurch earthquake.
"We hope that there is good news," he told parliament, referring to reports of multiple casualties and extensive damage to the city's buildings.
Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd said there were deep concerns about the loss of life and serious injuries.
"For the people of Christchurch this just isn't fair," he told the National Press Club in Canberra, ahead of his address on foreign policy.
"The damage is large, it's the middle of the working day, and the earthquake has not been deep from the surface."
Rudd referred to Australia's solidarity for its Kiwi friends at "a horrible time" for the people of Christchurch.
The earthquake is receiving a lot of coverage from international media..
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