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New Zealand PM Announces Aid Package for Areas Devastated by Quake

New Zealand's PM John Key, center, meets with relief workers from US during a tour of a tent city where hundreds of international and local relief workers have been housed in central Christchurch following Tuesday's earthquake in New Zealand, February 26,

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key says the government will provide tens of millions of dollars to help re-build areas devastated by last week's massive earthquake.

Speaking at a news conference following a cabinet meeting Monday, New Zealand Prime Minister John Key said his government would provide $90 million in aid, initially, to help pay salaries for some 50,000 people unable to go to work because of damage from the quake. He told reporters re-building after the damage will take years, but will be a top priority of the government.

"I'd like to reaffirm our commitment to provide whatever financial resources are necessary to rebuild Christchurch and the Canterbury economy," he said. "The earthquake's effects will be felt for many years years to come. But the government will provide the financial resources needed both in the short and longer term. Supporting and re-building Christchurch are among the most important things the government will be doing this year and into the future."

Key said the economic cost of the earthquake could reach as much as $15 billion. He said among the long term measures being considered are an extra tax on all householders under New Zealand's compulsory quake insurance system to raise any additional money needed to cover any insurance shortfall.

The quake, which registered 6.3 on the Richter scale, is one of New Zealand's worst natural disasters. The island nation suffered a 7.1 magnitude temblor on September 4 in a remote area that caused minimal damage.

New Zealand began burying the victims of last week's earthquake.

A five-month-old baby boy was among the first victims to be buried Monday in Christchurch. The boy, Baxtor Gowland, was born shortly after the September quake that struck the city.

His funeral was held as authorities warned that strong winds later in the day could stir contaminated dust and could topple structures weakened by the earthquake.