Kiwis are rallying to help the Christchurch recovery effort, with more than $14 million pouring into relief funds as the nation today marked the tragedy with two minutes' silence.
LATEST: Hundreds of people from outside the city have arrived to help with the massive clean up operation, including around 200 farmers who manned 20 diggers to clear more than 1100 tonnes of silt from the New Brighton area yesterday.
The show of solidarity comes as Prime Minister John Key urged all New Zealanders to observe two-minutes' silence at 12.51pm today, exactly a week after the 6.3 earthquake ripped the heart out of Christchurch with the loss of up to 200 lives.
Key and Labour leader Phil Goff were both marked the occasion at the Christchurch Art Gallery, the headquarters for the civil defence operation in the city.
Governor-General Sir Anand Satyanand, his wife Lady Satyanand and Deputy Prime Minister Bill English, church and faith representatives, MPs and members of the Diplomatic Corps were at a vigil on the steps of Parliament.
In churches around the country mourners signed condolence books and lit candles in remembrance of those that lost their lives.
Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee told TVNZ the moment was a chance for everyone to reflect on the disaster.
"It's a mark of respect. It gives us a bit of time to think, particularly, about the many people who are injured and will carry the scars of this event with them for the rest of their lives, the many people who have helped repair them, of course, the dead, and their families who are suffering so much at the moment."
The Government yesterday unveiled a $120 million emergency rescue package that will see workers in firms that cannot operate because of the quake paid $500 gross per week. For part-time workers, the payment is $300 a week.
Workers who lose their jobs because of the quake will get $400 a week till the scheme expires in six weeks.
Key said the Government was working on a longer-term package, and he urged people to get back to work if it was safe to do so.
"This is a broken city, but one that we need to repair, We need people to be able to go back to work. This is something like five to eight times more significant to the New Zealand economy in a financial impact than arguably Hurricane Katrina."
Key also confirmed an inquiry will be held into the collapse of buildings that had been signed off as safe after the September 4 earthquake "to provide answers to people about why so many people lost their lives."
Police said 155 people were confirmed dead in the earthquake, but warned the toll was expected to rise further. Around 50 more people are still reported missing, and there is now considered no hope of anyone else being pulled alive from the Canterbury TV and Pyne Gould buildings and the Cathedral, were scores were trapped in the twisted steel and falling rubble.
Today's two minutes' silence comes as Christchurch slowly shows some signs of returning to normality following the earthquake, which is expected to see at least 500 inner city buildings condemned.
Streets are dotted with trucks, repair crews, excavators and equipment and most roads are open, although traffic is slow as motorists negotiate cracks and unexpected mounds.
The first movie theatre reopened yesterday. People can be seen jogging, playing golf and cycling. Firewood is being delivered, stock are on the way to the freezing works and container ships are unloading at Lyttelton.
Factory car parks are full as workers get back to work. About 70 babies (about the usual total) have been born since last Tuesday.
All over Christchurch, a wheelbarrow army has been clearing properties and footpaths of the 180,000 tonnes of silt delivered by the force of liquefaction. The debris is six times that forced to the surface by the September 4 quake.
But authorities were today bracing themselves for potentially dangerous conditions, with strong northwesterlies expected to send the dried silt into the air in dust clouds.
The danger of aftershocks and further carnage from the quake is also never far away, with 77 homes in the suburbs of Redcliff and Cashmere evacuated overnight amid concerns about cracks in the cliffs.
New Zealand-based relief funds stood at nearly $14 million last night, including $6.6m raised by the Red Cross and $2.4 by the Salvation Army.
Together with big corporate donations, the non-Government relief effort stands at more than $14 million.
STATE OF EMERGENCY EXTENDED
The National State of Emergency put in place following last Tuesday's devastating earthquake has been extended.
It comes as Finance Minister Bill English refuses to rule out cuts to Working for Families payments or interest free student loans as the Government looks for ways to pay for the reconstruction of Christchurch.
Mr English said he was not ruling anything in or out, though he said in terms of income support the Government would continue to "protect the vulnerable'' - a likely signal that any cuts to Working for Families would only be made at the top end of income earners.
Meanwhile Civil Defence Minister John Carter said the National State of Emergency was likely to remain for several more weeks.
"This declaration ensures coordination and cooperation between central and local resources, and international assistance. Due to the scale of this disaster, the civil defence response is beyond the resources of the local authority."
Legislation requires the state of emergency to be renewed every seven days.
Carter said the significant damage and continued aftershocks were behind the extension. It means Civil Defence national controller John Hamilton retains the authority to direct and coordinate resources.
NATION STANDS TOGETHER IN SILENCE
The silence began at 12.51pm, one week after the 6.3 magnitude quake struck. Church bells throughout the country tolled before fading away before the silent tribute.
As rain clouds gathered, hundreds of Wellingtonians gathered in Civic Square.
Tearful mourners hugged each other during the sombre silence. Minutes later, heavy rain fell across the city.
Prime Minister John Key, who had called for the national period of silence, marked it at the Christchurch Arts Centre where he stood beside his wife Bronagh, and Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker.
In Australia, Parliament also observed silence for the quake victims.
The silence across the nation, including in some of the country's busiest workplaces, was a sign of unity for the people of Christchurch and respect for those who lost their lives.
For 10 minutes after the silence, the Wellington Cathedral of St Paul near Parliament rang its bells in a half-muffled peal to acknowledge those who lost their lives.
People gathered on the lawn and forecourt of Parliament at 12.30pm to join Governor-General Sir Anand Satyanand and Lady Satyanand, Deputy Prime Minister Bill English, church and faith representatives, MPs and overseas diplomats.
The two minutes was marked during an ecumenical service at Auckland's Anglican Cathedral, attended by leaders of city churches, Mayor Len Brown and local MPs.
Emotions ran high in Hamilton, where the silence was broken by the sobs of a weeping woman among the crowd at the Cathedral Church of St Peter.
In Dunedin, thousands turned out to pay their respects.
In a moving tribute, Mayor Dave Cull sent a message of support to "Christchurch, our big sister up the line''.
Earlier, Fire Service spokesman Russell Wood said the silence would be tough on the Christchurch rescue workers.
"It will be an emotional time for many of our workers who have been out there non-stop doing real hard graft," he said.
"For some it's been a while since they've had that tangible reward of bringing out a live person so they'll be feeling it."
Mr Parker said the silence, which was followed by an Anglican church prayer, was a poignant moment for Christchurch and all of New Zealand.
He said the silence was about everyone "standing together", regardless of where they were.
"The two-minute silence at 12.51pm is really about whatever you are doing, stop ... and we all stand together as one," he said.
DEATH TOLL RISES
Cliff said earlier today the number of missing people was still fluctuating, but the total of those dead and missing was hovering around the 240 figure.
"I think we need to start considering that the figure of around 240, but not locked in stone because we are still getting information in which is taking people off the list and sometimes adding others on..." he told reporters this morning.
The confirmed number of dead rose to 155 today. Mr Cliff said three bodies were retrieved from the Pyne Gould Corporation building overnight.
Meanwhile, the brother of missing CTV presenter Donna Manning thanked supporters and said that a fund-raising trust had been set up for her children.
Manning is believed to be trapped in the CTV building and her brother Maurice Gardiner today said the family is "holding on to hope that she will be returned to us".
"Our hearts go out to all of Christchurch, especially those who, like us, are still waiting for news of loved ones.
"While we wait, we pray for strength, especially for our parents and Donna's children, Elizabeth and Kent Manning."
People can make a donation to the Elizabeth and Kent Manning Trust at any Kiwibank.
Police efforts to identify the dead have been bolstered today by the arrival of a four-member victim identification team from Queensland.
Superintendent Russell Gibson said there were now more than 170 people involved in the painstaking operation to correctly identify bodies.
Many of the dead have been so badly injured that visual recognition by relatives alone is deemed too risky to ensure a correct identification.
DNA, fingerprints and other methods are being used to limit the chances of mistaken identities.
Meanwhile, the New South Wales Government has pledged $A1 million ($NZ1.3m) for the victims of the quake.
The cost of the recovery is estimated at $20 billion and the Government says the money will be found.
Finance Minister Bill English this morning said there were provisions for $19b of the cost, but the shortfall would be met.
He said Government spending would have to be "significantly re-prioritised".
PEOPLE FLEE CHRISTCHURCH
Nearly 50,000 people have flown out of Christchurch since last week's earthquake - the exodus is expected to soar as cheap fares are snapped up. Many more people have left the quake-hit city by car.
A lot of those leaving were visitors but Air New Zealand said many were residents looking for time out.
The national carrier has flown an average of 8000 people out of Christchurch International Airport daily with more than 45,000 having left as of Monday.
That figure was expected to have passed 50,000 by yesterday and reach as high as 70,000 by week's end, Air New Zealand spokesman Mark Street.
The extra seats equated to around 20 additional Boeing 737 services per day on top of existing services.
''We have used every jet aircraft type in our fleet to find the additional capacity,'' he said.
- MARTIN VAN BEYNEN and GLENN CONWAY/The Press, with MARTIN KAY/Stuff and NZPA
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