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New Zealand PM cancels Argentina trip after quake

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New Zealand Prime Minister John Key cancelled a trip to Argentina Monday after a powerful 7.8 earthquake rocked his South Pacific nation, but still hopes to attend an Apec summit in Peru.

[WELLINGTON] New Zealand Prime Minister John Key cancelled a trip to Argentina Monday after a powerful 7.8 earthquake rocked his South Pacific nation, but still hopes to attend an Apec summit in Peru.

Mr Key was scheduled to travel to Buenos Aires on Tuesday on a trade mission but said he wanted to stay at home until the scale of the quake's destruction was known.

"The situation is still unfolding and we don't yet know the full extent of the damage," said the New Zealand leader, who has confirmed at least two quake-related deaths.

"I believe it is better that I remain in New Zealand in the coming days to offer my assistance and support until we have a better understanding of the event's full impact." New Zealand officials have apologised to their Argentinian counterparts and Mr Key said he would personally call President Mauricio Macri to explain the situation.

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He added that he would still attend the November 19-20 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) in Lima "if circumstances permit".

The jolt early Monday was one of the most powerful recorded in quake-prone New Zealand but Mr Key said its impact appeared far less than a 2011 temblor in Christchurch that killed 185 people.

"Purely on the Richter scale, this thing has been bigger than what we saw in the Christchurch quake, but thankfully the loss of life, at this point, is significantly less," he told Sky News.

AFP

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