PM John Key attends tsunami memorial

VERNON SMALL
Last updated 14:36 10/09/2012

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Prime Minister John Key has presented gifts to the Japanese urban search and secure teams who helped in the aftermath of the 2011 Christchurch earthquake.

Speaking at a memorial service for the victims of the 2011 tsunami and the Great East Japan Earthquake, Key thanked the rescue workers for their tireless work over 16 days on the site of the collapsed CTV building.

"It is particularly poignant coming here from New Zealand, another land of earthquakes and volcanoes," he said.

Key this morning visited Shobutahama beach where on the day of the tsunami a wave 10 metres high swept over two kilometres inland, destroying homes and flooding rice fields.

Almost 16,000 people died.

Standing on the sea wall in front of a calm sea, with surfers in the water and locals walking their dogs on the beach, local mayor Yoshi Watanabe outlined the extent of the damage that hit the tranquil bay.

Across the region it is estimated to cost $260b to rebuild - about seven times the $30b cost of the Christchurch rebuild.

The region has set 10 year recovery plan with first three years to 2013 for restoration, the next four years for  construction, and then a four year rebuild phase ending in 2020.

Key said that in March last year exhausted New Zealand urban search and rescue crew had insisted on travelling to Japan to help. It was arranged for a 54 strong urban search and rescue team to be sent from New Zealand. Only weeks before a 66 member team from Japan had been sent to Christchurch within two days of the earthquake which killed 28 Japanese students in the collapsed CTV building.

Eleven Japanese language students from Christchurch joined the New Zealand delegation at the memorial service.

Key presented Mayor Watanabe with a pounamu carving to mark the event.

- An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported that the Great East Japan Earthquake and subsequent tsunami happened in 2010.

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