Australian Government Joint Media Conference on Earthquake Tragedy in Christchurch, New Zealand

Canberra, Australia ( February 22, 2011

Australian Government Joint Media Conference on Earthquake Tragedy in Christchurch, New Zealand

Australian Government Joint Media Conference on Earthquake Tragedy in Christchurch, New Zealand

During a joint media press conference at Parliament House. Minister for Foreign Affairs Kevin Rudd MP & Attorney-General Robert McClelland MP, clarified Australia’s position and actions so far in relation to the earthquake tragedy in Christchurch, New Zealand.

Mr Rudd stated that both he and the Attorney General had been in contact with the New Zealand Foreign Minister McCully about New Zealand’s immediate needs during this ongoing tragedy.

Mr Rudd went on to say that there are currently 350 registered Australians in Christchurch and an estimated 8000 Australians in the Canterbury region.

The Australian High Commission in Wellington is seeking urgently to confirm the safety and welfare of Australians registered in and around Christchurch and has commenced contacting registered Australians.

All Australians who have not yet registered are being urged to do it as quickly as possible, so their wellbeing can be confirmed. Relatives and friends of people in Christchurch are being first asked to try and contact them directly.

If unable to contact friends or relatives and you still hold fears for their welfare, you should then contact the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade –  24 hour consular emergency centre on 1300 555 135. That centre is being increased with staff progressively during the course of the day. It is now operational.

For people in New Zealand they should call +61 2 6261 3305. That is the consular emergency centre, or the High Commission on +64 473 6411.

The consular emergency centre received over 2000 calls within the first few hours of operation from distressed families and friends of Australian citizens located in the devastated area.

The Australian Deputy High Commissioner who is in on site with two other embassy staff is in the process of helping to establish a temporary crisis centre for Australians in downtown Christchurch.

The Attorney-General went on to say,as a result of making contact with New Zealand officials, Australia will be sending over, in the next few hours, an advance rescue team and that will be followed up over the course of tonight with a heavy urban search and rescue team from NSW.”

The urban search and rescue team will be made up of a total of 70 strong, expert search, rescue, medical and engineering specialists including search dogs. The team will be available and ready to undertake duties at first light tomorrow morning in New Zealand.

A second search and rescue team is likely to be put together from South Australian and Queensland members and available within hours.

Mr McClelland went on to say that Medical resources are available if required in the form of nurses, surgeons and other medical staff who we’re on standby and waiting for confirmation from New Zealand as to its requirements.

“I should also indicate that as always the Australian Defence Force is providing every assistance in transporting our emergency teams over to New Zealand.”

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