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Authorities Revise Death Toll, Missing in New Zealand Quake

Student volunteers assisting in post-quake clean-up efforts in Christchurch, February 27, 2011

Grieving New Zealanders held church services Sunday for victims of Tuesday's devastating earthquake, as authorities raised the death toll to 147.

At the same time, police said more than 50 people remain missing, correcting an earlier estimate of 200.

New Zealand authorities say as much as one-third of the city center of Christchurch may have to be demolished and rebuilt. Numerous buildings crumbled or collapsed during the 6.3 magnitude quake. Engineers say the central business district could be completely unusable for months while the wreckage is cleared and weakened structures are torn down.

Prime Minister John Key said there was "still a glimmer of hope" that survivors might be found. But he acknowledged that relatives of the missing fear the worst.

He said the government on Monday would announce a financial assistance plan for the estimated 50,000 people who will be out of work because of the quake.

While hundreds of police, soldiers and other continue to comb the wreckage, survival stories are now being recounted as well.

A 64-year-old climbing enthusiast, who was trapped in one of the office buildings, said he helped 14 people escape by lowering them down the face of the building. Mountaineer John Haynes said that as aftershocks rocked the building, he used emergency ropes he found stored in the remains of the building to help them descend.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP.