NZ Quake Does Not Stop Church Services

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The devastating earthquake that struck Christchurch, New Zealand last week did not stop churches from worshipping together on Sunday.

Church buildings were among the hardest-hit structures when the massive quake ripped through the island country's third largest city. Parishioners held services in parks and on the lawns of those shattered church buildings.

Meanwhile, the death toll from the Feb. 22 earthquake has climbed to nearly 148 and is expected to rise. Grave fears are held for about 50 other people who are unaccounted for, police Superintendent David Cliff said.

Prime Minister John Key announced the first package of financial measures aimed to help the stricken city get back on its feet - subsidies for employers worth 120 million New Zealand dollars to help pay salaries for approximately 50,000 people unable to go to work because of damage from the quake.

"It is designed to immediately put money into people's pockets and give them some confidence," Key said at a news conference in Wellington after a Cabinet meeting.

Key also said the expected economic cost of the earthquake saying was "in the order" of NZ$20 billion. Analysts had earlier put the cost at up to $12 billion.

Engineers and planners say the city's decimated central area may be completely unusable for months to come and that at least a third of the buildings may have to be razed.

Two minutes of silence will be observed on Tuesday, exactly one week after the disaster struck.

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