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Sunday, February 28

PM expresses sympathy to Chile after quake

Prime Minister John Key today expressed sympathy on behalf of New Zealand to the government and people of Chile following the massive earthquake there.

"I am shocked by the devastation in Chile and would like to convey my sincere condolences to the people of Chile, President Michelle Bachelet and the Chilean Government," says Mr Key.

"More than 200 people have died, but it's clear from media reports that the toll may rise.

"The New Zealand Government is prepared to provide assistance to Chile should this be requested.  The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has spoken to the Chilean Ambassador and passed on the New Zealand Government's condolences.

"New Zealand Civil Defence officials have also been busy monitoring and issuing updates on a tsunami generated by the earthquake.

"While the impact so far appears to be at the lower end of the scale, the Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management is still warning the public to stay away from low-lying areas and keep off the water.

"I have spoken to Civil Defence Minister John Carter, who is pleased with the way the Ministry, emergency services, local authorities, and volunteers have responded across the country.

"The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the New Zealand Embassy in Santiago are working to account for New Zealanders in Chile.

"This work is being hampered by the break-down in telecommunications as a result of the earthquake.

"So far there are no reports of any New Zealand casualties and all embassy staff have been confirmed as safe.

"Family and friends who have concerns about New Zealanders in the affected area should try to make contact with them in the first instance.

"If they cannot make contact with relatives and have concerns, they should call MFAT on  0800 432 111, or +64 4 439 8401 if they are calling from overseas," says Mr Key.