Television channels interrupted their schedules last night to screen an address from the Prime Minister. Speaking from an undisclosed location, he appealed for calm.
"The test of a nation," he said, "is its response to crisis. We have survived crises before in this country and we shall survive this one, but at present, official resources simply cannot cope with the scale of the problem.
"It may be weeks before help reaches our more remote communities. So in the meantime, it is essential that people reach out to people, the strong succouring the weak.
"Otherwise, this little land of ours, this bastion of windy rocks set in a stormy sea, this stadium four million strong," at which point his voice faltered, his chin puckered and trembled, and an aide passed him a black handkerchief monogrammed with a silver fern.
Then screens went blank and the Prime Minister's snuffling was replaced with a soundtrack of mournful music.
Spate of botched operations
Reports are coming in from around the country of a series of botched surgical operations on healthy athletic young men.
"He went in to have a wisdom tooth removed," said the mother of one speaking on condition of anonymity, "but he woke up with this scar on his inner thigh.
"He can't move his leg, and his tooth still hurts, but it was really nice of them to give him $100,000."
A spokesman for the hospital acknowledged there had been an unfortunate error.
"Inquiries have revealed that, on the surgeon's operating notes, the words `lower left wisdom tooth' had been misspelt `adductor longus tendon'.
"It's a mistake anyone could have made.
"The removed tendon has been iced and rushed to central government," he added, "as per standard medical protocol."
"Forget the Eurozone, the credit crunch and the current account deficit," said a leading broker.
"This is big. A market is a barometer of hope, and hope has simply collapsed like a burst tyre.
"And with it will go, well, just about everything. Every listed corporate – from banks to brewers, from telecoms to hardware chains – has spent millions yoking its brand to this event, however absurdly, in expectation of cashing in when the right thing happened.
"Now the wrong thing has happened. I can see no way of going forward, going forward."
So saying, he reached into his filing cabinet, hauled out a wad of securities, opened the window of his 17th-floor office, leaned out, sighed and watched the scraps of paper flutter down towards the deserted streets below.
"I think I'd like to be alone now, please," he said.
Minister hints at conspiracy
At a press conference held in the Civil Defence bunker, the Minister of Health announced that, despite the best efforts of specialists, the current crisis seemed beyond the reach of conventional medical science.
"Any truth in the rumour," asked a reporter, "that the Government has flown in scientists from the Roslin Institute in Scotland?"
"If you're referring to the boffins who successfully cloned Dolly the sheep," said the minister, "I have no comment to make.
"Though I would like to briefly take issue with the traitors, doubters and glass-half-emptiers who point to the fact that Dolly died young. My reply is that she lasted a lot longer than the three weeks we'd need a clone for. Nevertheless, there seems no way around the problem of the gestation period."
When asked whether there was a call for volunteers to donate body parts, the minister said that the Government had all it could use.
"Is foul play suspected?" asked a reporter.
Choosing his words with care, the minister said that everyone was free to draw their own conclusions from the evidence.
"But I would like to take this opportunity," he added, "to thank those members of the international community who have offered help in our time of crisis.
"It may or may not be significant that these offers have come mainly from the so-called `minnow' nations, and none at all from the 'our-side-of-the-draw' nations, but this may be an example of the same – yeah, yeah – freakish chance that caused the catastrophe in 1995."
A man on crutches giving his name as Daniel Carter is reported to have been seen smiling.
"Yeah, I'm disappointed to have hurt my leg," the man observed, "but, hey, it's only a game."
Most reputable sources have dismissed him as an impostor.
- © Fairfax NZ News