ShelterBox team aids New Zealand earthquake victims

Rescuers searching for survivors of the Christchurch earthquake
Image caption The earthquake struck Christchurch at lunchtime - one of the busiest times of day

A response team from Cornish-based charity ShelterBox is in Christchurch assessing the needs of earthquake victims.

At least 65 people have been killed and hundreds injured after a 6.3-magnitude earthquake hit the city at lunchtime.

John Leach, ShelterBox head of operations, said: "In this early phase of the disaster the extent of emergency shelter requirements is unclear.

"Any level of need will emerge in the next 24 hours."

The New Zealand ShelterBox team of Walter Kley, Arnold Kelly and Lyndon Tamblyn are working with the authorities in Christchurch to assess and prioritise the immediate need.

Some emergency shelters have already been erected, but more will be needed.

Mr Tamblyn said many people were still missing and the death toll could rise further.

"It's being called the darkest day in our history," he said.

"We're in shock - it's something you don't expect to see in your own country."

ShelterBox was founded in 2000 by Rotarian Tom Henderson and adopted by the Helston-Lizard Rotary Club.

Image caption The tent in every aid box can provide shelter for up to 10 people

It sends boxes of aid to people made homeless by natural or man-made disasters across the world.

Boxes are tailored to each disaster but typically contain a 10-person tent, sleeping bags, water purification, cooking utensils, a stove and a basic took kit.

Last year the charity sent aid to numerous countries, including flood victims in Sri Lanka, tsunami victims in Indonesia and landslide victims in Mexico.

The tremor occurred at a shallow depth of 5km (3.1 miles) during lunchtime when Christchurch was at its busiest.

More than 14,000 earthquakes hit New Zealand every year, but only about 20 have a magnitude in excess of 5.0.

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