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Obama offers assistance to New Zealand

US President Barack Obama today offered all help in rescue and relief operations, as he called New Zealand Prime Minister John Key to offer condolences over the devastating earthquake that struck Christchurch.

world Updated: Feb 24, 2011 11:17 IST

US President Barack Obama on Thursday offered all help in rescue and relief operations, as he called New Zealand Prime Minister John Key to offer condolences over the devastating earthquake that struck Christchurch.

During the telephonic conversation, Obama noted that a US search and rescue team was on its way to New Zealand, and said the US was ready to provide whatever further support was needed in this difficult time.

"The President underscored the close and enduring friendship between the American people and the people of New Zealand," the White House said.

Prime Minister Key described the determination of the people of Christchurch and New Zealand in the face of this tragedy, and expressed appreciation for US support, the statement said.

On Tuesday the US Agency for International Development (USAID) said it is deploying its Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) team to New Zealand, which includes the Los Angeles County (California) Fire Department Urban Search and Rescue team (USAR), to assist with the search and rescue efforts.

The USAR component of the DART will be what is called a "heavy team", bringing more than 70 specialised personnel and necessary equipment to make live rescues in even the most precarious situations.

As many as 76 people are confirmed dead after Tuesday's 6.5 earthquake that devastated Christchurch, and 238 are still reported missing.