Two UK dead in New Zealand quake

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Specialist teams sift through the destroyed CTV building in Christchurch on Thursday 24 February
Image caption,
A UK search-and-rescue team arrived in Christchurch on Thursday

Two Britons died in the earthquake that devastated Christchurch in New Zealand, the Foreign Office has said.

One has been named as Gregory Tobin, a 25-year-old chef, from Tadcaster, North Yorkshire.

They are among the 113 confirmed victims of the earthquake and their next of kin have been informed.

British High Commission spokesman Chris Harrington said two other British men are believed to be among the 228 people still missing.

He said: "They got on a certain bus, which was crushed by falling masonry."

Mr Harrington said another Briton was in Christchurch Hospital with a fractured skull, broken clavicle and broken ribs but was expected to make a full recovery.

The earthquake struck the city at a shallow depth of 5km (3.1 miles) early in the afternoon on Tuesday.

Mr Tobin had been on a round-the-world trip and had been working at a garage in Christchurch.

One of the tributes to him on Facebook read: "Such a nice guy and at such a young age."

Police have said 228 people are missing in the South Island city - including 122 believed to have been in one collapsed building where it is thought no-one could have survived.

They have insisted that they are still carrying out a rescue operation but no survivors have been found since Wednesday afternoon.

'Always a chance'

A British search-and-rescue team has recently landed in Christchurch, joining others from the US, Japan and Australia.

Its spokesman, Peter Crook, told the BBC his specialist unit was hoping to find survivors.

"We're two-and-a-half days into the earthquake now so that's when the window is starting to close for the most common rescues," he said.

"There is always a chance and the rescue effort will keep going for several days yet.

"History tells us that people can get rescued from the deepest, hardest places to find, sometimes five, six, seven, eight days after the earthquake."

He said the 65-strong team was drawn from 13 different fire services in the UK and they had brought a "planeload" of heavy rescue equipment.

"All the older structures are severely damaged or down.

"We are currently working on a 1960s, five, [or] six storey building which has collapsed - almost flat to the ground in some places - and it has obviously several people inside and we are currently working through that building," he said.

Back in the UK, the Prince of Wales has signed a book of condolence at New Zealand House in central London.

The prince, who met High Commissioner Derek Leask, wrote: "With my deepest possible sympathy for the people of New Zealand at such a time of tragedy."

Prince William, Prince Harry and Kate Middleton are expected to sign the book later on Friday.


The Foreign Office has set up a crisis centre at a hotel near Christchurch airport to issue emergency passports and help its citizens escape the quake zone.

"We have a large consular team on the ground, including our High Commissioner to New Zealand, Vicki Treadell, who are providing full consular assistance to any British nationals that require it," a spokesman said.

"The High Commission in Wellington has been reinforced with additional staff, and we stand ready to send further reinforcements from our posts in the region if required."

A helpline on 020 7008 8765 has been set up for concerned friends and relatives in the UK.

British nationals in New Zealand are advised to call 049 242 898 for advice and assistance. The Foreign Office website has more information about the consular assistance being provided.

Meanwhile, tributes have been paid to Irishman Owen McKenna, originally from Emyvale in County Monaghan, who died in the 6.3-magnitude quake when his car was crushed by falling debris.

Image caption,
Many people in Christchurch have been unable to return to their homes

The 41-year-old was married to a woman from New Zealand and had two children of primary school age.

Fabian Murphy, an old school friend, last saw Mr McKenna when he returned home for a short visit in July 2009.

"He was as funny as ever. I have known him since we were four years old," Mr Murphy said. "We'll really miss him."

Two Irishmen are still missing and one of them is trapped in a collapsed building.

Christchurch city centre remains closed and many residents are spending another night in evacuation centres.

The airport reopened on Wednesday, and military planes were brought in to fly tourists to other cities.

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