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Taiwanese rescue team on way to New Zealand

2011/02/23 11:42:08

Taipei, Feb. 23 (CNA) A 22-member Taiwanese rescue team departedfor New Zealand late Tuesday to help with post-disaster reliefoperations after a strong earthquake ravaged Christchurch, thelargest city on New Zealand's South Island.

The rescue team, organized by the National Fire Agency under theMinistry of the Interior, is scheduled to arrive in New Zealand ataround 1 a.m. Thursday (Taipei time) after transiting in Sydney,Australia.

The team is bringing specialized search and rescue equipment,such as life detectors and drilling tools, but it had to drop itsplan to take along two sniffer dogs because the cargo hold of theflight from Sydney to Christchurch will not be air-conditioned.

Foreign Affairs Minister Timothy Yang presented a national flagto the team at a rally at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport priorto its departure.

Yang expressed his gratitude to the MOI and China Airlines,Taiwan's largest carrier, for helping the Ministry of Foreign Affairssuccessfully organize the rescue mission.

The ministry has also earmarked US$100,000 to help finance reliefefforts in New Zealand, Yang added.

The magnitude-6.3 strong quake devastated Christchurch, topplingoffice buildings at the height of the workday and leaving at least 65dead and hundreds of others injured or missing.

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key, who rushed to the city fromthe capital, Wellington, said on Tuesday that the death toll waslikely to rise.

"We may be witnessing New Zealand's darkest day, " he said.

The quake was the second major temblor in five months to strikethe city, which survived a magnitude-7.1 earthquake last Septemberwithout any loss of life.

But seismologists said Tuesday's quake struck at a far shallowerdepth and closer to the city, making it far more intense.

(By Bien Chin-feng and Sofia Wu)