Hundreds missing after New Zealand quake

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Lisa Mullins: I'm Lisa Mullins, and this is The World. Aftershocks are hampering efforts by rescuers in New Zealand after a 6.3 magnitude earthquake there on Tuesday. At least 75 people were killed in the quake, about 300 are missing. John Mitchell is the Regional Civil Defense Manager for the Canterbury region. He says rescue workers are listening for tapping noises or other signs of life. He says survivors have also been communicating with their cell phones.

John Mitchell: They have been getting text messages out, we've been fairly lucky that the cell phone system has stood up. So they've been able to contact friends and family usually is what they've done and they have been able to let them know which building they were in at the time. Also we've got telecommunications attempting to triangulate where signals may have been coming from for some of the lost people for whom they've got cell phone numbers so there's the more high-tech approach.

Mullins: We also spoke today with Ian McLean who's the public information officer with the New Zealand ministry of civil defense and emergency management. We asked him what he thinks the most valuable tool they have is.

Ian Mclean: Time. That's of the most value to us, moving as quickly as possible. And the skill of the people, their expertise. We have some very highly skilled people.

Mullins: How about in terms of what facilities you have for people right now in Christchurch. Do people have basic services, water, electricity, food?

McLean: Water's in short supply; there's only about 20% of households have that, so we're delivering water to people in tankers. ABout 60% of building have power on. Waste water's a problem too, so people are having to be careful about flushing the toilet so that's going to continue for some time. We have welfare centers and there are round about just under 400 people we know have been evacuated through the welfare centers.

Mullins: And are there still aftershocks, can you feel tremors?

McLean: Oh yes, yes, there have been dozens of aftershocks since the one on Tuesday. As of four o'clock this morning our time there have been 34 aftershocks greater than magnitude 4, so that's big enough to feel.

Mullins: Big enough to do much more damage?

McLean: Not significant, no, no, they don't seem to be doing much damage to the buildings. So there, I guess, the ones that have fallen down - have.

Mullins: Ian McLean also says that among the buildings that have fallen is the Christchurch television building.

McLean: The decision last night was made that it was not survivable and so the rescuers had to move on to other buildings so that was, you know, a shock for people knowing that they're unlikely to get anybody else alive out of that building.

Mullins: And just to be clear, how did they make that decision that it was not survivable?

McLean: From the dogs, the sound equipment and the cameras, they couldn't find anybody in there. The building's also been on fire.

Mullins: All right. That kind of decision, that's unimaginable how one makes it but I suppose when you're looking at so much devastation, that's the reality.

McLean: Well, that's right, and sadly they've just had to move on to other buildings where they know there are people trapped and alive.

Mullins: That was Ian McLean with the New Zealand ministry of civil defense and emergency management. One of the most striking images from the earthquake is the ruins of Christchurch Cathedral. Peter Beck is the reverend there. He was in the cathedral when the earthquake struck, in a part of the building that withstood the shaking.

Peter Beck: This is not an act of God, this earthquake. I mean, this is the earth doing what it does, you know, it's a dynamic, moving planet. The tragedy is in a sense that we have chosen to live on the fault line that caused this. The act of God is in the way in which we reach out to one another and show love and compassion, love, and care in that is God which gives us the sort of strength and courage to carry on.

Mullins: That was Peter Beck, reverend of Christchurch cathedral. As we mentioned yesterday, the earthquake caused a 30 million ton chunk of ice to break off the tasman glacier in New Zealand. The head of tourism at Oraki Mount Cook alpine village sent us some pretty stunning photos of the blue iceberg that plunged into Tasman lake. Dennis Calison also sent us his explanation of the science and exactly what happened when the 300 year old mountain of ice broke free of the glacier. You can find it all at