Quake shocks Prince

Townsville Bulletin - - News -

PRINCE Wil­liam ex­pressed shock at the dev­as­ta­tion in e a r t h q u a k e - h i t C h r i s t - church yes­ter­day.

‘ ‘ It’s just so sad,’’ the Prince said as he sur­veyed the city cen­tre, which was r a z e d i n l a s t m o n t h ’ s 6.3-mag­ni­tude tremor, adding, ‘‘ the scale of it is un­be­liev­able’’.

Wil­liam was con­fronted with the sight of of­fice blocks and shops that col­lapsed when the Fe­bru­ary 22 quake killed about 180 peo­ple and flat­tened much of the city.

The trip to Christchurch, which has been rocked by con­stant af­ter­shocks since the Fe­bru­ary 22 quake, was the first stop on a five-day tour of disas­ter-stricken ar­eas of New Zealand and Aus­tralia.

St James’ Palace has de­scribed the trip as a way for the roy­als to show sup­port for peo­ple in both coun­tries strug­gling to re­cover from re­cent dis­as­ters.

Ap­pear­ing re­laxed and in good spir­its af­ter touch­ing down at Christchurch air­port, the Prince paused to hold an on­looker’s baby and smiled as one woman yelled out: ‘‘ Thank you so much for com­ing to Christchurch.’’

But t he mood be­came more s om­bre when t he 28-year-old ar­rived in the city cen­tre, the area worst

GES­TURE: Prince Wil­liam with mem­bers of the Ur­ban Search and Res­cue team in Christchurch hit in the disas­ter.

He was guided into Christchurch’s ‘‘ red zone’’, which is still closed to the pub­lic be­cause of the dan­ger from dam­aged build­ings.

It was a stark con­trast to the prince’s last visit to Christchurch, in 2005, dur­ing a rugby union tour by the Bri­tish and Ir­ish Lions.

In a cruel twist, Christchurch res­i­dents learned only a day be­fore Prince Wil­liam’s ar­rival that the city had been stripped of its matches f or t his year’s Rugby World Cup be­cause the dam­age to the city is so ex­ten­sive.

Wil­liam toured civil de­fence head­quar­ters, where emer­gency crews have been work­ing around the clock to help Christchurch re­cover.

Lat e r , Will i a m v i s i t e d G r e y m o u t h w h e r e 2 9 min­ers died late last year when a gas ex­plo­sion tore t hrough t he Pike River mine. He will rep­re­sent Queen El­iz­a­beth II at a me­mo­rial for earth­quake vic­tims i n Christchurch to­day be­fore de­part­ing for Aus­tralia on Satur­day. He will visit ar­eas of Queens­land and Vic­to­ria dam­aged in re­cent floods and cy­clones.

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