Thousands in London remember quake victims

11:18 am on 28 March 2011

Thousands of New Zealanders in London have converged for two events to support earthquake-stricken Christchurch.

At least 166 people died in the magnitude 6.3 quake on 22 February and much of the South Island city has been severely damaged.

At Twickenham, about 35,000 turned for the Super Rugby clash between the Crusaders and the Sharks - the first to be played in the northern hemisphere.

The match on Sunday was moved to London after the Crusaders' home ground, AMI Stadium, was badly damaged in the quake and has been ruled out as a venue for the Rugby World Cup in September.

New Zealanders, many wearing red and black, dominated the stands to watch the Crusaders win 44-28. About $11 from each ticket for the match will be donated to the Red Cross quake appeal, totalling about $NZ373,250.

Earlier, a memorial service for the victims of the quake was held at Westminster Abbey.

The service was attended by Prince Charles and New Zealand High Commissioner Derek Leask and led by the Dean of Westminster.

Hundreds of people, including 42 New Zealand-based families in Britain, gathered in the church to remember those killed.

One of those invited to attend was Mark Maynard, whose wife died when the Pyne Gould Corporation building in central Christchurch collapsed. He paid tribute to British search and rescue teams who helped with recovery work.

Former All Black captain Anton Oliver read a prayer during the service and afterwards said it was the Maori hymns that had really given the ceremony meaning.

"I heard Maori waiata (songs) and that made me feel like a New Zealander. I felt connected with that and felt they're my people, that's my place.

Linda Tamakaha, now a singer in Britain, says the memorial service was a chance to gather with other New Zealanders to show their support.

"I've never been in Westminster Abbey, but to be able to sing songs in my language and my culture is something that I hope I get to do again and something I'll never ever forget."

Radio New Zealand's London correspondent reports there was an overwhelming sense of loss and sadness, but people were grateful for the chance to grieve.

High Commissioner Derek Leask told Morning Report it was a very solemn and moving event.

After the ceremony, Prince Charles spent about half an hour speaking with families of bereaved people living in London in an ante-room at the abbey.