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Woman rescued after 24hrs in NZ quake rubble

February 22, 2011 12:00:00 AM PST
Rescuers have pulled a woman from the rubble of New Zealand's devastating earthquake more than 24 hours after she was trapped.

Cheers broke out as office worker Ann Bodkin was pulled free Wednesday from the pile of twisted metal and shattered concrete that had been the PGG building in the city of Christchurch.

Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker said Bodkin was quickly reunited with her husband, who was anxiously watching the painstaking rescue.

New Zealand officials say the death toll has risen to 75 after a 6.3-magnitude earthquake hit the city of Christchurch on Tuesday.

There are as many as 300 people still missing, including about a dozen Japanese students. It's believed they are trapped under buildings or cars.

Rescue crews have been working non-stop trying to pull people out. Some trapped victims have been able to send messages to loved ones using their cell phones, letting them know they're still alive.

The quake struck Christchurch at 12:51 p.m. local time. Rescuers are dealing with cold, rainy weather and aftershocks. So far, they've felt at least 33. At least two aftershocks had magnitudes of 5.5 and 5.6.

New Zealand's prime minister called it the country's darkest day and said New Zealand is in "agony." Hundreds have been injured in what officials call one of the island nation's worst earthquakes in 80 years.

The earthquake struck in the middle of a busy work day in Christchurch, which is one of New Zealand's largest cities. As a result many people ended up trapped in their cars and under chunks of concrete. Entire buildings were sheared off, and large cracks formed on busy streets.

Parker said 120 people were rescued from wrecked buildings, while more bodies were also recovered. A camera inserted into the rubble showed images of people still alive, Parker said.

Some survivors emerged without a scratch, while others had to have a limb amputated before they could be freed.

Several people were standing just yards away when the top of the city's historic cathedral came crashing down.

Christchurch was just in the process of rebuilding after a larger quake struck the city six months ago. The latest quake was more shallow and centered much closer to the city, which made it more deadly.

Officials say it's possible this earthquake was an aftershock to the quake that hit in September.

"Many of the buildings were weakened by the 7.0 earthquake and then they were furthered damaged and collapsed in the 6.3 aftershock," said Cal Tech seismologist Kate Hutton.

The United States is mobilizing the disaster response team out of Los Angeles to assist with operations in New Zealand. The 70-member crew will include members of the Los Angeles County Fire Department Urban Search and Rescue Team.

The Associates Press contributed to this report.