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Prince William tours quake damage in New Zealand

March 17, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
Britain's Prince William was in New Zealand Thursday for a firsthand look at the damage done by the magnitude 6.3 earthquake.

William was escorted around a section of downtown Christchurch that bore the brunt of the quake that struck on February 22, toppling or badly damaging thousands of buildings and killing at least 166 people. He described the damage in Christchurch as "unbelievable."

He stopped at the Anglican cathedral where workers briefed him on the effort to stabilize and repair the church tower that collapsed in the quake.

Almost a third of buildings in the downtown area are expected to be demolished as a result of damage caused by the quake, according to government officials. The cost is estimated at $11 billion.

He also met with the search and rescue team and firefighters that rescued many of the survivors.

William was due to leave Christchurch later on Thursday for Greymouth, on the west coast of the South Island, where he will meet the families of 29 men killed in an explosion at the Pike River coal mine in November.

He then flies to Australia on Saturday to tour areas of Queensland and Victoria states that earlier this year were hit by the country's worst flooding in decades.

William is visiting New Zealand and Australia on behalf of his grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II, to offer condolences to the victims of the earthquake, mine disaster and flooding.

The trip comes only a matter of weeks before Prince William is due to marry Kate Middleton at Westminister Abbey in London on April 29.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.