Image taken from video footage shows the remains of Christchurch Cathedral after an earthquake hit the southern New Zealand city of Christchurch Feb.22. Photo: Reuters
Church leaders of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia are asking for prayers from Anglicans around the world following a 6.3-magnitude earthquake in the southern New Zealand city of Christchurch that killed more than 60 people.
The Feb. 22 earthquake also injured thousands and caused extensive damage to properties and buildings, including the 130-year-old Christchurch Cathedral, whose spire collapsed. Parts of the church’s roof also caved when the tremor struck at 12:51 p.m. local time, according to news reports.
At least two people have been rescued from the Cathedral. There are fears that several people may have been trapped when the spire collapsed. The dean of Christchurch Cathedral, Peter Beck, told New Zealand media there were visitors milling around the church’s viewing platform when the earthquake struck.
“There will have been people in the Cathedral, as well as our own staff of course, when this happened. There’s a huge amount of dust, it’s like a fog inside there,” Beck also told the BBC. “We got all the people that we could, but there are piles of rubble, especially where the tower collapsed. We don’t know whether there were people in the tower at the time, but I’m fairly fearful of that.”
The Cathedral, located in the centre of the city, is a popular tourist attraction; its tower offers a magnificent view of Christchurch, which was established as an Anglican settlement in the 1800s.
“We are receiving reports of multiple fatalities, many casualties, extensive damage, evacuation and major trauma to thousands of people,” said a statement issued by Archbishops David Moxon, Brown Turei and Winston Halapua, and the Standing Committee of the church’s General Synod. “We, along with so many other people in this country, immediately turned to prayer for all those who are seriously affected…We reach out in this prayer to the people of the city of Christchurch and the wider Canterbury region, asking the God of all the earth to give everyone the strength and endurance that they need to survive and to recover.”
Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, has asked Canadian Anglicans to pray for the people of Christchurch.
“Let us hold in prayer all those who await news of loved ones believed to be buried in the rubble, all who have died or been seriously injured and all who are providing emergency services,” he said.
Archbishop Hiltz also requested special prayers for the bishop of the diocese of Christchurch, Victoria Matthews, and all who are providing pastoral care to people in the affected areas. Bishop Matthews, the former bishop of the Canadian Anglican diocese of Edmonton, has been bishop of Christchurch since 2008.
The quake struck when most people were out shopping or having a lunch break, said news reports. Emergency services found themselves stretched as they tried to rescue people trapped in rubble and crushed vehicles; many suffered injuries from falling debris. The city’s mayor, Bob Parker, has declared a five-day state of emergency.
As rescue efforts continued, Beck called for prayers and said it was important to focus on people’s lives, rather than the partially destroyed Cathedral. “A building’s a building. The really awful thing is that we’ve lost lives at this time,” he told the BBC.
(New information has been added on paragraphs 7 to 9 of this story.)