Canterbury marks two years since deadly quake
Hundreds of people have attended an official ceremony in Christchurch marking the second anniversary of the February earthquake.
The devastating 6.3-magnitude quake that struck on 22 February 2011 claimed the lives of 185 people.
About 500 people attended the civic service in Latimer Square, near the site of the collapsed Canterbury Television (CTV) building where the greatest single loss of life occurred, and the partially constructed cardboard cathedral.
For the first time, the cordon around the former CTV site was brought down to allow those mourning the 115 people who died in the building to have access.
The land is usually fenced-off with visitors often leaving flowers and other tributes tied to the fencing. It was close again at 6.30pm on Friday.
The service included a wreath laying ceremony, readings and a minute of silence at 12.51pm - the moment the earthquake occurred.
A special place was set aside for family members of those who died, while emergency service workers and first responders were also acknowledged.
The region was first hit by a magnitude 7.1 quake in the early hours of 4 September 2010, but the tremor in February the following year caused extensive damage and loss of life.
Prime Minister John Key acknowledged the family and friends of those who died, saying he knew it was a difficult day for them.
He paid tribute to the strength and resolve of Cantabrians, telling those gathered the magnitude of the destruction means it will take some time for the region to fully rebuild and recover.
"People have lost their homes and businesses. People have faced massive disruption, uncertainty and anxiety. And people have endured more than 11,000 earthquakes and aftershocks since September 2010. In the face of that, you have shown great heart and resilience."
Mr Key said by the end of this year, more than 50,000 house repairs would have been completed under the Earthquake Commission's managed repairs programme.
Christchurch mayor Bob Parker also addressed the service, telling the crowd the personal and collective grief continues.
Japan's vice-minister of foreign affairs Minoru Kiuchi represented the 20 countries whose citizens died and laid a wreath at the service.
Among the community-organised commemorations on Friday was a 'river of flowers' in which people could drop flowers in the Avon and Heathcote rivers and the estuary.
Messages can be left on a Tree of Hope at more than a dozen sites around the city and people are also being asked to leave messages pinned to the Pallet Pavilion near Victoria Square.
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