Prince William to visit quake-hit Christchurch: N.Zealand PM

9th March 2011, Comments 0 comments

Prince William will visit earthquake-hit Christchurch this month before travelling to Australia to tour cyclone-ravaged areas of Queensland, New Zealand Prime Minister John Key said Wednesday.

Key said St James's Palace confirmed Prince William would represent Queen Elizabeth II at a national memorial in Christchurch on March 18 for earthquake victims, just over a month before his April 29 wedding to Kate Middleton.

He said the heir to the throne would arrive in New Zealand on March 17 and spend two days in the country, also visiting Greymouth, where 29 miners died in a colliery explosion late last year.

He would travel to Australia on March 19, Key said.

"This is a heart-warming gesture that will mean a lot to the thousands of people whose lives have been forever changed by these events," Key said in a statement.

"I would like to personally thank The Queen for thinking of New Zealand in its darkest hours and very much look forward to seeing Prince William again, even though it is in very sad circumstances."

Prince William, whose grandmother Queen Elizabeth II remains the official head of state in New Zealand, last visited the former British colony in January 2010.

The 6.3-magnitude Christchurch quake on February 22 flattened large parts of New Zealand's second largest city and is believed to have claimed more than 200 lives.

© 2011 AFP

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