Five thousand New Zealanders congregated at London’s Westminster Cathedral last night in honour of the victims of the Christchurch earthquake.

New Zealand expats heard about the vigil mainly through Facebook and a crowd of 5,000 turned up to pay their respects. Speakers were set up so the thousands who stood outside could hear the service.

The service in Westminster Cathedral opened with a message from Prime Minister John Key read by New Zealand High Commissioner Derek Leask.

“With the support of many people from all over the world we will get through this. Though lost lives will never be replaced, and though Christchurch will never look the same again, we will rebuild this great city,” Keys message read.

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“Distance may divide these Kiwis from their homeland, but the earthquake has touched all of them.”

A Maori choir then sung “How great they are”.

Kiwi singer Hayley Westenra, who hails from Christchurch, was moved to tears as she sang the national anthem, joined by the rest of the congregation.

“It’s pretty emotional singing the anthem at the best of times so it wasn’t the easiest of performances, but really special to have so many New Zealanders in one place here in London,” Westenra said.

“We can regard this service as a long-distance vigil,” Leask said.

Messages posted on Twitter following the service included: “Remembering Christchurch tonight at Westminster Cathedral. Turnout is unreal. And humbling.”

Back in Christchurch, John Key has announced that there is no longer any hope of finding survivors and that the focus had shifted to the recovery of bodies.