Prince William to visit New Zealand, Australia

AP News
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Posted: Mar 08, 2011 9:17 PM
Prince William to visit New Zealand, Australia

Prince William will visit New Zealand and Australia next week to tour and show the royal family's support for people in areas devastated by recent natural disasters, royal officials said Tuesday.

William will travel on behalf of Queen Elizabeth II to meet those affected by New Zealand's earthquake and Australia's flooding. On the trip _ undertaken at the invitation of the two countries' prime ministers _ William will also meet members of the emergency and other support services, the prince's office, Clarence House, said in a statement.

The prince's first stop will be in Christchurch on March 17, where a magnitude 6.3 earthquake last month killed at least 166 people in one of New Zealand's worst disasters.

Authorities in Christchurch have so far formally identified three U.K. nationals who were killed in the temblor and another four are feared dead. William will spend two days in the city, where he is expected to attend a memorial service on the 18th.

He will also visit the town of Greymouth, where 29 people _ including 2 Britons _ were killed in a mining explosion.

On March 19, William will travel to Queensland, Australia, to spend two days visiting towns and areas affected by the recent cyclone and flooding. After that, he will visit the flood-affected areas of Victoria, Clarence House added.

"The royal family have been watching the natural disasters with the same shock and sadness as everyone else," a spokesman for St. James's Palace said, speaking on customary condition of anonymity. "They wanted to show their solidarity with the people of New Zealand and Australia."

The visit comes after William, who is set to wed Kate Middleton on April 29, signed a book of condolence at the offices of New Zealand's High Commission in London with his brother and fiancee.

The prince last visited both countries in January 2010. At that time, he visited Auckland and Wellington on behalf of the Queen. He also visited Sydney, New South Wales and Melbourne on a private visit that month.

More details of William's itinerary will be made in "due course" by the offices of New Zealand's and Australia's prime ministers, Clarence House said Tuesday.

The visit will cap off a busy month of public appearances for William ahead of his wedding. In recent weeks, he has toured all parts of the United Kingdom with his fiancee by his side, including stops in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Middleton will not be traveling with William to New Zealand and Australia, Britain's Press Association news agency reported. She did accompany William and his brother, Prince Harry, to sign a book of condolence at the offices of New Zealand's High Commission in London last month.