Tributes for British quake victims


Personnel from Japan Disaster Relief team move through the destroyed CTV building in Christchurch, New Zealand (AP)

The death toll in the New Zealand earthquake has risen to 113, with two Britons confirmed to be among the victims.

British chef Gregory Tobin, 25, from Tadcaster, North Yorkshire, died when the quake tore apart Christchurch on South Island earlier this week.

The identity of the other British victim has not yet been confirmed.

Mr Tobin, who attended Tadcaster Grammar School, had been on a round the world trip and was believed to have been working temporarily at a garage in Christchurch. Friends have left tributes to him on Facebook. One read: “Such a nice guy and at such a young age.” Another read: “Sad times … I can’t believe it.”

Tributes have also been paid to Irishman Eoin McKenna, a psychiatric nurse from Monaghan county, who died when his car was crushed by falling debris. The father-of-two had trained and worked in London and also spent some time in Saudi Arabia.

Fabian Murphy, an old school friend from St McCartan’s College in Monaghan, said: “He was as funny as ever. I have known him since we were four years old. He was one of the funniest people ever, even in 2009, the night’s craic we had was just like old times. We’ll really miss him.”

Rescuers continued to search for another Irishman who worked in a building that collapsed when the quake struck. He has been named locally as JJ O’Connor, from Co Kerry, an accountant in the Pyne Gould Guinness (PGG) Building in Christchurch.

Some 228 people are still missing after the 6.3-magnitude quake and hopes of pulling anyone else out of the rubble alive have diminished. Officials said the death toll is likely to rise, and New Zealand foreign minister Murray McCully said the government was preparing to give family members from several countries some bad news.

Hundreds of rescuers from across the globe, including a 55-strong search and rescue team drawn from the British emergency fire and rescue services, continue to scour Christchurch’s shattered town centre district. Civil Defence Minister John Carter said: “We are still hopeful that there still may be people rescued but it’s getting less and less likely.”

British High Commission spokesman Chris Harrington said two more British men are believed to be among the missing. He said: “They got on a certain bus, which was crushed by falling masonry.” Mr Harrington added that an injured Briton, who is in Christchurch Hospital after suffering a fractured skull, broken clavicle and broken ribs, is expected to make a full recovery.

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