Three or Four Israelis Feared Killed in New Zealand Quake

Sefi Krupsky
News Agencies
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Sefi Krupsky
News Agencies

Between three and four Israelis who were in Christchurch at the time of the massive earthquake on Tuesday are still missing and feared to have been killed, the Foreign Ministry and Israel consul in New Zealand confirmed on Wednesday.

The 6.3 magnitude earthquake hit Christchurch, New Zealand at 12:51 P.M. (local time) on Tuesday, toppling buildings and killing an estimated 75 people, although the number is expected to rise. An estimated 300 people are still reported as missing in the quake's aftermath.

A firefighter works near the collapsed CTV building Tuesday's earthquake in the New Zealand city of Christchurch February 23, 2011. Credit: Reuters

In the latest development in Christchurch on Wednesday, police are estimating that 100 people may have bee killed in the Canterbury TV building in the city, the New Zealand Herald reported.

The collapsed building has been deemed by rescue crews as "un-survivable", and thus rescue efforts at that particular spot have been halted.

There were an estimated 120 Israelis living or traveling in Christchurch at the time of the quake, only some of whom have been successfully contacted.

"There are three or four Israelis who we are certain were at or near the site of the earthquake," Teddy Poplinger, the Israeli consul in New Zealand said on Wednesday, adding that he was working with government in order to find them.

Ofer Mizrahi, 23, of Kibbutz Magal near Hadera, has been identified as one of those missing in the rubble.

A friend who was traveling with Mizrahi reported that they were in a car when the quake struck, and Mizrahi was hit by a concrete beam that smashed through the car. The friends were unsuccessful in trying to extract Mizrahi from the beam, and were evacuated to a nearby park.

Poplinger said he encountered numerous Israeli tourists who are "shocked by what they experienced and by what they saw.

"We have a list of Israelis that were in the area, but we believe that most of them werent in Christchuch at the time of the quake," Poplinger said in an update on Wednesday.

Many sections of the city of 350,000 people lay in ruins, and all corners of it were suffering cuts to water supplies, power and phones. Police announced their curfew in a cordoned-off area of downtown, saying buildings were at risk of crumbling in the aftershocks still rumbling through the city.

One of the city's tallest buildings was reportedly in imminent danger of collapsing, with one corner sinking lower in the ground and the facade showing major buckling.

Authorities emptied the building and evacuated a two-block radius, holding back residents with a police rope.

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key declared a national state of emergency as hundreds of soldiers, police and other emergency workers - including specialist teams from the U.S. and other countries - rushed to Christchurch.

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman spoke with his New Zealand counterpart Murray McCully on Tuesday and expressed Israels condolences. Lieberman also thanked McCully for local authorities efficient assistance to the Israeli Embassy in Wellington in locating the Israelis caught in the vicinity of the quake.