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Prince William tours disaster-hit NZ and Australia

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Media captionThe 6.3 magnitude earthquake struck on 22 February

Prince William has seen for himself the damage caused by last month's earthquake in New Zealand.

He met rescue workers in Christchurch, where more than 160 people died in the earthquake.

The prince is starting a tour of disaster zones in New Zealand and Australia on behalf of the Queen.

Prince William is also visiting the scene of a mining explosion that killed 29 people in November, before going on to flood-hit areas of Australia.

The prince was greeted at Christchurch's emergency management centre by the minister for earthquake recovery Gerry Brownlee, and Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker.

'Unbelievable'

He went on to see the city's badly damaged cathedral, where the tower collapsed in the quake.

"The scale of it is unbelievable," he said as he toured the centre of Christchurch to inspect the damage.

He met and joked with emergency workers and fire crews.

Search and rescue technician Martin Sparrow said the visit had boosted morale: "It shows that what has happened here is in the eye of the world."

Terry Gyde, a firefighter who met Prince William at the city fire station, said: "He was pretty awe-inspired I think, it was quite surreal to be there and for anyone listening to it it becomes a bit overwhelming at times."

He added: "We are from the Commonwealth, and Commonwealth countries always stick together."

The Prince, who is making the trip without his fiancée Kate Middleton, is due to attend a memorial service in the city on Friday for victims of the quake.

Solidarity

Speaking earlier this month, a St James's Palace spokesman said the visit had been arranged following invitations from the prime ministers of New Zealand and Australia.

The spokesman added: "The Royal Family have been watching the natural disasters with the same shock and sadness as everyone else.

"They wanted to show their solidarity with the people of New Zealand and Australia, and the decision was taken with the prime ministers' offices and the royal household that Prince William should attend and visit the countries."

The magnitude 6.3 earthquake struck the city of Christchurch on New Zealand's South Island on 22 February this year.

Prince William travelled on to Greymouth to meet the families of the 29 victims of the Pike River mine disaster.

Also on the South Island, the miners became trapped by a gas explosion at the Pike River coal mine in Atarau on 19 November last year.

In Australia, he will go to several locations in Queensland over two days followed by a visit to north-west Victoria.

Parts of the country were affected by torrential rains starting in November last year, forcing rivers to burst their banks.

Prince William was last in New Zealand in January 2010, when he represented the Queen in Auckland and Wellington.

He made a private visit to Sydney and Melbourne in Australia the same month. He first visited Australia as a baby on his parents' tour in 1983.

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