New Zealanders pay respects to quake victims

19:50, Feb 27 2011
Service to remember Christchurch's earthquake victims.
Thousands of New Zealanders paid their respects to Christchurch's earthquake victims at services around the country. Pictured is the 10am church service on a lawn outside the damaged St Barnabas Anglican Church on Fendalton Road.

Thousands of people in Christchurch as well as the rest of the country today paid their respects to those killed in Tuesday's devastating earthquake.

Many of the services in Christchurch were held in the open air because of the large number of churches damaged or destroyed in the 6.3 magnitude quake.

On the lawn of Christchurch South Library on Colombo Street, hundreds arrived on bicycles and on foot to reflect on the tragic event.

The trees surrounding the lawn provided a buffer to the busy street bustling with emergency services and people walking back and forwards with water containers.

"The library is only a few minutes walk from the inner city cordon and the dust and damage of the CBD was not far away.

"The quake hit older buildings, including churches, the hardest, and the iconic ChristChurch Cathedral in the square will need to be demolished.

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"Quite a few churches around the city do not have clearance and people are nervous about being in an enclosed space anyway so we have decided to meet outside," the Reverend Alan Webster, who conducted the Christchurch South Library service, said.

"This is an open space where people can relax together." Most of the cross-denomination congregation sat on deck chairs.

Many brought their pet dogs and picnic rugs and scones and cups of tea were handed out as hymns were sung.

Local resident Murray Amtman said his family did not usually attend church but felt the need to be with people this week.

"We just wanted to pay our respects and be with other people as well."

Members of the congregation told each other stories of survival and there were tears, hugs and smiles of support.

"We wouldn't go to church normally but we needed to come and share our story today. It is better than sitting alone crying and togetherness is good for the spirit,'' Hoon Hay resident Kendra Street said.

She, her husband and their two-year-old son had not been allowed back in to their house since Tuesday but she considered her family lucky as they had access to water and power when many did not.

Jennifer Hamilton's usual church, the Holy Cross Chapel in the Square, is lying in a heap of rubble inside the cordon zone.

She said she had been driving past when she saw the group of worshippers gathering and decided to join in.

"I felt the need to get together with people and worship," she said.

NZPA