Nation evacuates quake-hit town
Recovery and rebuilding will ‘take months, cost billions’ as aftershocks continue to rattle region
New Zealand emergency services and defense personnel evacuated hundreds of tourists and residents from a small South Island town amid more strong aftershocks on Tuesday, a day after a powerful earthquake killed two people.
The 7.8-magnitude tremor struck just after midnight on Sunday, destroying farm homesteads, sending glass and masonry toppling from buildings in the capital, Wellington, and cutting road and rail links throughout the northeast of the ruggedly beautiful South Island.
As aftershocks continued to rattle the region, emergency services cordoned off streets in Wellington and evacuated several buildings due to fears one of them might collapse.
Wellington Mayor Justin Lester said the vacant building appeared to have suffered structural damage when the land it was on subsided in the quake. A fire service official said a major structural beam had “snapped like a bone”.
Thetownof Kaikoura, a popular base for whale-watching about 150 kilometersnortheast of Christchurch, the South Island’s main city, remained cut off by massive landslips.
Four Defense Force helicopters flewinto thetownonTuesday morning and two Navy vessels were heading to the area carrying supplies and to assist with the evacuation, acting commander of New Zealand joint forces, told TVNZ.
“We’re looking to do as many flights as we can out of Kaikoura today,” he said.
Out of water
Around 400 of the 1,200 tourists stranded in the town were flown out on Tuesday, including 12 people with a variety of injuries, officials said.
The Red Cross, which used Defense Force helicopters to bring in emergency generators, satellite communications and water bladders, said water in the town was running out.
Mark Solomon, a leader of South Island indigenousMaori Ngai Tahu tribe, which has tourism and fisheries businesses around Kaikoura, said the local marae (Maori meeting place) had received 1,000 people since Monday morning. Many slept overnight in the communal hall or in vehicles outside.
The tribe had fed them with crayfish, adelicacyforwhichthe South Island town is famous. With no power, the tanks that hold the expensive crustaceans had stopped pumping.
“It’s better to use the food than throw it in the rubbish so we sent it up to the marae to feed people,” Solomon said.
Finance Minister Bill English said the government was well positioned to deal with the expected repair bill of billions of dollars, with low debt and budget surpluses.
“We are in about as good a shape as we could be to deal with this natural disaster,” English said.
China chartered four helicopters to evacuate around 40 nationals from Kaikoura, mostly elderly and children, late onMonday, said Liu Lian, an official at the Chinese Consulate in Christchurch.
“They have been trapped in Kaikoura for a couple of days, some are maybe scared, they have some mental stress,” Liu said. Around 60 Chinese tourists would be evacuated on Tuesday, Liu said.
Many other tourists said they planned to continue their trips, and travel agencies said they hadn’t noticed a drop off in bookings.
Gale-force winds and rain were hampering recovery efforts, and hundreds of aftershocks continued to rock the region. A magnitude-5.4 tremor was among the bigger aftershocks and was felt strongly in Wellington.
Civil Defense estimated about 100,000 landslides had been caused by the quakes.
had been caused by the quakes, the Civil Defense estimated.