Churches in Asia are calling for prayers and support as rescuers have officially given up hope of finding more survivors of New Zealand's deadly earthquake. Authorities say they do not think that anyone trapped beneath rubble could still be alive after nine days and have abandoned hope of finding any more survivors. About 70 people were rescued from the rubble in the hours soon after the 6.3 magnitude earthquake, but no one has been found alive since then. The official death toll from the quake now stands at 161. Officials say the death toll from the earthquake that hit Christchurch February 22 could eventually rise to as high as 240 dead, including dozens of students from across Asia, with Japan topping the list. About 2,500 people have been injured. Japanese teams were among the first international rescuers helping New Zealand deal with the disaster. Japan, an earthquake prone country, suffered a 7.3 magnitude earthquake in Kobe 15 years ago that killed 6,400 people. Catholics in Japan say they are concerned for the many affected in New Zealand with many of them asking Caritas Japan to donate money. Caritas Japan will send its counterpart in New Zealand contributions that are being sent to Caritas Japan by Catholics. Fr Antonius Benny Susetyo, an official with the Indonesian Catholic bishops conference said the local Church has expressed concern and directed Caritas Indonesia, its social service agency, to help victims of the New Zealand earthquake. The bishops have also asked Catholics to pray for those killed in the disaster and those injured. Indonesian understand the pain of loss of loved ones as it has often suffered major earthquakes that has killed hundreds of thousands over the past few years. In central China, Catholics in Shaanxi province were sad to hear of the tragedy in New Zealand and prayed for the victims. Father Zan of Hanzhong, who served at Xixiang Church, said local people understood the pain of the victims as his parish also suffered from an earthquake in 2008. He expressed hope that the Catholic social service centers in Shaanxi would hold fund-raising activities to collect donations for victims as the Chinese people has also received help from outside during the 2008 quake. In Xi'an, the provincial capital, Xi'an diocese held a Mass at the cathedral immediately after the quake was reported. After learning so many people had died and were missing, Su Weimin, a laywoman of Zhouzhi diocese, gathered her family together to pray for the victims. "Even though Shaanxi is far away from New Zealand and we could not help in the rescue, we could pray fervently to the people there," said another layperson Zan Guangsheng, a construction worker. In Thailand, the Catholic bishops deputy secretary general Father Pipat Rungruangkanokkul said his conference had sent letters to express their sympathy to the Catholic bishops of New Zealand. The Catholic Bishops Conference of Thailand had asked its counterpart in New Zealand if it needed any assistance. When the CBCT will get the response, it will be acted upon, he said. Media reports that the list of the missing include more than 60 students at a foreign language school housed in the Canterbury TV building, one of two buildings that were completely collapsed during the quake. The missing students include 28 from Japan, 21 from China, nine from the Philippines, six from Thailand, two from South Korea and one each from Taiwan and Serbia. AS13525.1643
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