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New Zealand warns against all but essential Christchurch travel

As rescuers continue their efforts to locate survivors of the devastating Christchurch quake, New Zealand travel officials are warning against all but essential travel to the ruined city.

Tourism New Zealand is asking all Britons booked to travel to Christchurch in the near future to check with their airlines or travel agents before leaving home. The state of emergency declared last Tuesday is not expected to be lifted until well into next week due to continuing rescue attempts and risks of more building collapsing from frequent aftershocks.

Christchurch International Airport is open for both domestic and international flights, but Britons already in the city and booked to fly home are also advised to check with their airline to confirm their flight. Others now wishing to leave but who do not yet have flights booked should contact the Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management facilities set up at Burnside High School Welfare Centre or North Hagley Park.

According to Christchurch’s tourism chief Tim Hunter, the city is just not geared up for more arrivals, and visitors already here should seriously consider moving location to elsewhere in Canterbury province or another New Zealand destination. The city, he added, needs to concentrate to deal with the emergency, with much of the city centre inaccessible.

Mr Hunter adds hotels near the airport are still operating and relatively unscathed, but the TransAlpine and TranzCoastal rail lines have been suspended and local roads including the state highway were seriously damaged by the quake. The port of Lyttleton is also closed. Britons concerned about people thought to have been in the city when the earthquake struck should telephone on 00 64 7 850 2199 for updated information.

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