Prince William to visit Christchurch, Queensland


Prince William and Kate Middleton visit the University of St Andrews on Feb. 25, 2011, in St Andrews, Scotland.


Jeff J Mitchell

Prince William will visit New Zealand and Australia next week to show his family's support for the communities affected by recent natural disasters, according to royal officials.

The trip, which came about after invitations to the prince by the two countries' prime ministers, will include visits with people affected by the earthquake and flooding as well as with members of emergency and other support staff.

The visit will begin on March 17 in Christchurch, New Zealand, where a 6.3-magnitude earthquake last month killed close to 200 people and devastated much of the city.

Prince William will attend a memorial service the following day and then visit the town of Greymouth, where a mining explosion killed 29 people last year.

"This is a heart-warming gesture that will mean a lot to the thousands of people whose lives have been forever changed by these events," New Zealand Prime Minister John Key said in a statement, reports ABC News.

The prince will then travel to Australia to visit victims of last summer's flooding. He will spend two days in Queensland and then go to north-western Victoria.

‘‘I do thank the Prince for his decision to visit Australia,’’ Queensland Premier Anna Bligh told state parliament as reported in the Sydney Morning Herald. "I hope that he sends the message back to his friends and colleagues in the UK that Queensland is open for business and that while he’s here he gets an opportunity to see that himself.’’

The trip comes a month before Prince William marries Catherine Middleton on April 29.

-- Hanna Ingber Win