Embassy team headed to New Zealand Earthquake site

CHRISTCHURCH, NEW ZEALAND - MARCH 18:  Austral...Image by Getty Images via @daylifeA February 23, 2011 press release by the Department of Foreign Affairs

The Philippine Embassy in Wellington reported to the DFA that an Embassy team is on the way to Christchurch to look after the welfare and make an accounting of the Filipinos affected by the 6.3-magnitude earthquake that struck the city yesterday at 12:51 PM (New Zealand time).

According to the Philippine Embassy, a certain Jay Payot sustained injuries in his arms.

The DFA Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs (DFA-OUMWA) received calls that five Filipino students are reportedly trapped in the CTV Building, which collapsed during the quake. This report is currently being verified.

The DFA-OUMWA has also set up a hotline for families of Filipinos based in Christchurch. The hotline numbers are 834-4448 and 834-4596.

Philippine Charge d’Affaires Giovanni Palec reported that rescue efforts are ongoing. Philippine Honorary Consul to Christchurch Zedric Peter Wait is leading these efforts on behalf of the Filipino community, in coordination with Filipino community leaders who are also closely monitoriong the situation.

According to Honorary Consul Wait, electricity was restored in some areas. However, telephone lines are still down, thus making it difficult to establish contact.

There is an estimated 2,000 Filipinos in Christchurch.

While the earthquake was lesser in intensity compared to the 7.1-magnitude one that occurred September 2010, it seems that the damage was more extensive and with more injuries and fatalities suffered in view of the time when it happened that most people are going about their daily activities.

Police, Rescue and Civil Defense teams are out and are providing assistance, especially to those who are shocked. Water pipes have been reported to have burst while some roads have been affected. There are also reports of buildings that have collapsed.

Authorities in Christchurch advised their citizens to remain at home and monitor the situation, as well as boil their water before drinking. They have also asked unhurt residents to check their neighbors, and see if they are hurt or in need of assistance as rescue authorities cannot cope with the huge number of calls for help.

New Zealand declared a state of calamity after the quake, which reportedly left nearly 400 people dead or missing. Prime Minister John Key scheduled an emergency cabinet meeting yesterday afternoon, and has flown to Christchurch to gain first-hand knowledge of the situation.