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No known NZ casualties in London

Published: 11:44PM Thursday July 07, 2005 Source: One News/RNZ

New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark has requested that flags in New Zealand fly at half mast on Friday, following Thursday's attacks in London.

She says the terrorist attacks in London deliberately targeted innocent people and describes those responsible for the blasts as "evil."

Clark says she was "very, very shocked" at the news of the bomb blasts which caused many casualties in London.

The Prime Minister says she has made personal contact with the New Zealand High Commission in London and asked them to convey the "deep shock, sympathy and concern of the government and people of New Zealand to the office of Tony Blair".

Clark says New Zealand government officials have convened and they are following the situation extremely closely.

New Zealand's Deputy High Commissioner in London says she is not aware of any New Zealand casualties from the attacks.

Suzanne Blumhardt says given the number of New Zealanders in London at any time the embassy has not received as many calls as expected. She says embassy staff have been able to match most inquiries with people who are okay.

New Zealand High Commissioner Johnathan Hunt says he has been very impressed with how the commission staff have reacted to the attacks.

"We've had one of our staff visit two of the major hospitals and there's no New Zealander amongst those casualties," Hunt told One News

He says however he cannot guarantee that the situation won't change as there are likely to be more fatalities from the attacks in the next couple of days.

Foreign Affairs Minister Phil Goff says London was always going to be a terrorist target.

"This wasn't a case of if, I think it was a case of when - London was always going to be a target. Given the nature of terrorism it can happen at any time against anybody," Goff says.

He says New Zealand house in London set up an emergency room very quickly following the attacks and have been fielding calls regarding New Zealanders in the city.

The phone number to dial from New Zealand to check on New Zealand friends or relatives regarding the bomb blasts is 0800 733 276.

The phone number to be used by New Zealanders outside New Zealand is 64 4 495 8111.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has taken about 250 phone calls through the night which Goff says is less than expected considering the number of New Zealanders in London.

People can also call the High Commission in London on 0044 207 316 8960. However people trying to call London are warned they may experience difficulties getting through as lines are overloaded.

Mfat has also been in contact with the British High Commission to activate support for British and Irish Lions fans currently in New Zealand.

Goff has spoken with the British High Commissioner Richard Fell and he says the commission will be setting up a phone line for British tourists to contact the United Kingdom for information.

The New Zealand Rugby Union and the British and Irish Lions have jointly expressed their sympathy for the victims of the London bombings.

British and Irish Lions tour manager Bill Beaumont says the Lions are closely monitoring events in London and extended their condolences to the families of those killed.

The NZRU, All Blacks and British & Irish Lions have agreed to observe a minute's silence prior to the national anthems at Saturday's third test match in Eden Park as a mark of respect to those affected by the tragedy.

British and Irish Lions fullback Geordan Murphy says news of the attacks in London hit the team hard and have taken the gloss off his selection in the Lions' starting 15 for the test.

But he says the bombings have put things in perspective for the embattled Lions side and he spent most of Thursday night making frantic calls home to check on loved ones based in London.

The Prime Minister says there is no question that the attacks were timed for the G8 summit and that it was a terrorist attack. Clark says it is a terrible tragedy following the ecstatic response to the news that London had been awarded the 2012 Olympic Games.

Prince William, who is visiting New Zealand, has cancelled a day of whale-watching in Kaikoura that he had been scheduled to undertake. A spokesman says the prince is very concerned at the news from London, and is following events very closely.