NZ evacuates hundreds cut off by quake

Some of the 1,200 tourists stranded by the earthquake in Kaikoura being evacuated by a New Zealand Defence Force helicopter yesterday. Due to the quake, huge landslides have cut road and rail links to the town, where police say water is running low, power
Some of the 1,200 tourists stranded by the earthquake in Kaikoura being evacuated by a New Zealand Defence Force helicopter yesterday. Due to the quake, huge landslides have cut road and rail links to the town, where police say water is running low, power is intermittent and hundreds of people are staying in evacuation shelters.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
Residents near the town of Ward on New Zealand's South Island surveying the damage to State Highway One on Monday.
Residents near the town of Ward on New Zealand's South Island surveying the damage to State Highway One on Monday.PHOTO: REUTERS
Landslides block transport links along the coast, as shown in an aerial picture from the Royal New Zealand Air Force.
Landslides block transport links along the coast, as shown in an aerial picture from the Royal New Zealand Air Force. PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

Tourists, residents of small town flown out; more aftershocks felt throughout region

WELLINGTON • Hundreds of tourists and residents have been airlifted from a small South Island town, amid continuing aftershocks in the wake of a powerful earthquake that killed two people.

The town of Kaikoura, a popular base for whale-watching about 150km north-east of Christchurch, remains completely cut off by massive landslides. Around 1,200 tourists were stranded there along with its permanent population of 2,000 when the quake badly damaged its road and rail links.

More than 400 were ferried out by civilian and military aircraft yesterday, said Television New Zealand (TVNZ). Several complained about disorganisation. Aucklander Leanne Foulds told Radio New Zealand that some had to sign up twice to board one of the four New Zealand Defence Force helicopters which flew supplies into the town and carried people out.

China has chartered four helicopters to evacuate nationals from Kaikoura, said Mr Liu Lian, an official at the Chinese Consulate in Christ- church. One was treated for a minor head injury in hospital, he added.

Around 60 were to be evacuated yesterday and despite the experience, many planned to continue journeys to other parts of New Zealand, Mr Liu said.

Two navy vessels are heading to the area carrying supplies and to assist with the evacuation. Civil Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee said New Zealand had accepted an offer of two United States Navy helicopters, and has had offers of military help from Japan and Malaysia.

Police said water was running low, power was intermittent and hundreds of people were sheltering in evacuation centres. About 1,000 people - tourists and Kaikoura locals left homeless by damage to their houses - slept at a local "marae" or Maori meeting place on Monday night. They were fed crayfish, a delicacy for which the South Island town is famous, after the tanks that hold the expensive crustaceans lost their water supply when electricity failed.

"It's better to use the food than to throw it in the rubbish, so we sent it up to the marae to feed people," Mr Mark Solomon, a leader of the Ngai Tahu tribe, said.

Jolts of magnitudes 5.8 and 5.2 centred about 15km east of Seddon, north-east of Kaikoura, were strongly felt throughout the region yesterday, bringing to more than 1,000 the number of aftershocks since the big 7.5 quake in the early hours of Monday morning.

The town of Kaikoura, a popular base for whale-watching about 150km north-east of Christchurch, remains completely cut off by massive landslides. Around 1,200 tourists were stranded there along with its permanent population of 2,000 when the quake badly damaged its road and rail links.

Gale-force winds and rain have hampered recovery in the South Island and in clearing quake damage in the capital, Wellington.

A 10-storey building in Wellington was damaged badly enough by Monday's quake that its collapse is possible. The building is next door to the Red Cross headquarters and a few hundred metres from Parliament House. A fire service official said a major structural beam had "snapped like a bone".

"There's a concrete column that I can definitely see has sunk. If that concrete slab breaks away, then that could fall on top of our building," Red Cross spokesman Corrine Ambler told NewstalkZB.

Many city streets are cordoned off because of the danger of falling glass or masonry and one aftershock rattled Parliament during yesterday's question time.

Finance Minister Bill English had just completed answering a question about the cost of earthquake recovery when a 5.6 aftershock struck. After the shaking ceased, he quipped: "This time I'll be more careful about what I say."

REUTERS


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 16, 2016, with the headline 'NZ evacuates hundreds cut off by quake'. Print Edition | Subscribe