Wellington: Prince William reflected on the horror being endured by the disaster-stricken Japanese as he spoke on Friday in the ruins of Christchurch city at a memorial service for the victims of one of New Zealand`s most destructive earthquakes.
More than 40,000 people crammed leafy Hagley Park near the devastated business district of New Zealand`s second largest city for the first official occasion of national grieving since the quake on February 22.
Police have confirmed 166 deaths from the magnitude 6.3 quake, but the toll could exceed 180 with remains still to be identified.
William, representing his grandmother Queen Elizabeth II, the monarch of New Zealand as well as Britain, spoke of his sympathy and admiration for the people of Christchurch and of those suffering after last week`s massive earthquake and tsunami in Japan.
"This community, more than any other in the world, can appreciate the full horror of what is unfolding in Japan," he said. "Our thoughts and prayers are with them, too."
The earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan a week ago killed thousands of people and critically damaged nuclear power reactors, where workers are fighting to prevent a radiation crisis.
William, second in line to the British throne, has spent two days in Christchurch touring the devastated city centre and wrecked suburbs. He has met with residents, many of whom have lost homes, businesses, and after he spoke Friday mingled with around 400 relatives and partners of the dead.
"I convey to you Her Majesty`s message of deep sympathy and condolence," he said in his address.
"My grandmother once said that grief is the price we pay for love. Here today, we love and we grieve," he added.
William said he had been deeply moved by what he had seen during his visit to Christchurch.
With the "heartfelt good wishes" of the Queen, her son Prince Charles, the first in line to the throne, "and other members of my family, I say it to you kia kaha, be strong," William said, using an indigenous Maori term.
New Zealand Prime Minister John Key and Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker also noted Japan`s crisis in their remarks at the memorial.
The service was attended by Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard and ambassadors of several countries. A video played on large screens showed previously unseen footage of the devastated downtown sector, still off limits due to the risk of building collapses.