State Department Issues Travel Alert for Christchurch

Following the devastating earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand on Monday, the U.S. Department of State has issued a travel alert for the country.

The alert reads:

"The U.S. Department of State alerts U.S. citizens to the devastation to Christchurch in the wake of an earthquake that struck New Zealand on February 21, 2011. New Zealand government agencies are advising against any non-essential travel to Christchurch at this time. Considerable damage has occurred in the Christchurch Central Business District and in Lyttelton. There is a cordon around the central business district. Damage assessment is ongoing, and rescue work is likely to take days to complete. This Travel Alert expires on March 22, 2011.

New Zealand government agencies have established emergency medical and welfare relief shelters, at which U.S. citizens in Christchurch can find water, food, shelter, and medical care. Tourists wishing to depart Christchurch can do so on New Zealand Government-sponsored Visitor Facilitation Flights to Wellington. At this time, no passport or photo identification is required for the New Zealand Government-sponsored flights. Commercial flights are operating from Christchurch to Auckland and Wellington. U.S. Consular personnel from the U.S. Consulate General in Auckland and the U.S. Embassy in Wellington will assist U.S. citizens arriving in Auckland and Wellington with documentation of citizenship, onward travel, and emergency needs.

U.S. citizens may contact the U.S. Consulate, located at 23 Customs Street East, Auckland via e-mail at [email protected] In the event of a U.S. citizen emergency that cannot wait until the next business day, the emergency number is: 64 9 303 2724 x 2900 or 011-64 9 303 2724 x 2900 (as dialed within the United States).

All U.S. citizens in New Zealand are encouraged to enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) at the following website: https://travelregistration.state.gov. By enrolling, U.S. citizens make it easier for the Embassy to contact them in case of emergency."

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According to the New York Times, Christchurch police have imposed a curfew, and much of the city has no electricity or running water. The airport, however, has reopened for both international and domestic flights.

Officials said on Wednesday that at least 75 people had been killed, although only 55 had been identified. The authorities have warned that the final toll could be significantly higher and the expectation was that a clearer assessment of casualties would be known on Thursday morning.

Officials said 120 people had been rescued from the rubble since Tuesday’s earthquake, while temporary shelters across the city remained full.

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