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Look To The Stars’ Feature Editor, Tim Saunders, writes from New Zealand.

The first 24 hours were the worst, as we waited anxiously for news of family and friends. There was no communication, no way of knowing what was going on. Just scenes of rubble and dust and smoke… people bleeding, crying… we felt powerless, impotent, just waiting, waiting, waiting….

The sun has just risen over Christchurch for the second morning following Tuesday’s earthquake. For the third day we sit here and watch and wait while emergency workers frantically move from building to building, looking and listening for survivors. We just wait and hope.

Smoke still billows out from the twisted metal and heaps of stone that only a few days ago stood as “the most English city outside of England.” There is a hush in the central city as teams call for quiet, listening for any sound among the wreckage, any indication that someone is alive in there, miracles waiting to emerge.

We have hope, because we can’t afford to lose it.

I like to think that we are a strong country, full of practical people descended from pioneers, but many of us feel useless right now. I’m one of the lucky ones – my family and friends are accounted for. They talk first of the chaos, the horror of the shake, their houses – broken inside and out. Then their complaints of broken crockery fade as their thoughts turn to those less lucky – neighbors who won’t be coming home.

The stories I have heard over the last few days are horrific. Mothers killed by falling masonry, clutching their babies as they try to escape. Emergency workers helping those in need while their own families lay somewhere out there in the dark.

And yet there are also stories of amazing rescues and feats of survival – people who have walked unscathed from buildings that resemble crumpled cardboard.

We appreciate the support we are getting from around the world. The messages from Barack Obama, Prince William and other leaders – as well as the Tweets from the stars – all make us feel like we are not alone down here on the edge of the world. Around New Zealand we are mobilizing and doing all we can to help – even Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson, currently gearing up to film The Hobbit next month, has offered all the help he can: “Everyone involved in the production of The Hobbit is shocked and saddened by the earthquake and it’s devastating aftermath. Our thoughts and prayers are with the people of Christchurch and all those affected by this terrible tragedy.”

Perhaps our Prime Minister, John Key, said it best: “Many people have lost their lives. Families have lost their cherished loved ones. Mates have lost their mates. Though lost lives will never be replaced, and though your city will never look the same, you will rebuild your city, you will rebuild your lives, you will overcome.”

While our thoughts stay with those who still wait for word about those they love, and those who have already had news that will change their lives forever, we mustn’t forget those who have no home to go to. Thousands wait in emergency shelters – water supplies are at a minimum. Organizations like the Red Cross and The Salvation Army are working frantically to supply food and necessities to a growing number of the displaced.

We are working at a community level at the moment. It’s neighbors looking after neighbors here.

We urge you to visit sites such as SalvationArmy.org.nz and RedCross.org.nz.

In the meantime, we keep waiting.

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