Huge crowd expected at quake service

11:16 am on 18 March 2011

Tens of thousands of people are expected to be at Hagley Park for the National Christchurch Memorial Service on Friday.

The service begins at 12.30pm but music will be playing for two hours before that as people arrive.

Authorities are ready for a crowd of up to 140,000.

A video walk-through of the quake-damaged city centre will be played on large screens shortly before the service.

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Guests and dignatories include Prince William, Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard, Prime Minister John Key and Governor General Sir Anand Satyanand.

EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht will be representing the European Union.

Ngai Tahu will start the service with a welcome before two minutes of silence.

Prayers will be interspersed with song, with Dave Dobbyn, Hayley Westenra and Dame Malvina Major among those leading the singing.

Anglican Archbishop David Moxon says it is understandable that some people feel it is too soon to have a national memorial service.

He told Morning Report the timing of services and funerals is always a fraught decision to make after a tragic and unexpected death.

However, he says Friday's service is not an indication that it is time to stop grieving, or to cheer up.

Logistical planning

Christchurch mayor Bob Parker says the fewer cars coming into the city, the better.

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He says people should walk, drive or car pool.

Safety briefings will be given before the ceremony.

Extra police will be stationed around Hagley Park.

Police say they will also be patrolling the suburbs to stop anyone who might try to rob houses while their owners are at the service.

The service is expected to last for two hours.

Country mourns

The two minutes' silence at 12.51pm, the exact time the quake struck, will be observed nationwide.

The service will be screened live at the TSB Bank Arena at Queens Wharf in Wellington, at Invercargill's Civic Theatre and at the First Church of Otago in Dunedin.

Other services are taking place throughout the country for people to reflect on the earthquake.

Catholic masses are being held in Auckland, Hamilton and Wellington.

In Auckland, a service will be held at the Cenotaph in the Domain at 7pm.

The service will include tributes from Auckland Mayor Len Brown, as well as reflections from emergency service.

Condolence books will be available for signing.

Holy Trinity Catherdral dean Jo Kelly Moore hopes the service will help mourners begin the healing process.