Evac­u­a­tion com­pleted in town cut off by quake

Govt prom­ises busi­ness own­ers that it would pro­vide fi­nan­cial as­sis­tance for them

China Daily (USA) - - WORLD - By AGEN­CIES in­Welling­ton

NewZealand mil­i­tary lead­ers said on Wed­nes­day they had al­most com­pleted the evac­u­a­tion of more than 700 tourists and res­i­dents from a small coastal town, two days af­ter a pow­er­ful earth­quake cut off train and ve­hi­cle ac­cess.

The mag­ni­tude-7.8 quake left two peo­ple dead, trig­gered a small tsunami, and brought down rocks and mud that swept across high­ways.

Air Com­modore Dar­ryn Webb, the act­ing­com­man­derof NewZealand’sJoin­tForces, said that crews were load­ing about 380 peo­ple and three dogs onto anavy­ship. He­saidthe­ship­was due to leave on Wed­nes­day evening for a six-hour trip to a port nearChristchurch.

Webb said it had evac­u­ated another 340 peo­ple by he­li­copter since Tues­day.

Other tourists have left by char­ter­ing their own he­li­copters or hav­ing air trans­port pro­vided by their em­bassy. Some have cho­sen to stay un­til an in­land road re­opens.

“I think it’s gone re­ally well,” Webb said. “We were for­tu­nate to have a rea­son­able break in the weather today.”

Aus­tralian hon­ey­moon­ers Kurt and Kailah Sap­well were among the tourists stuck in Kaik­oura but they didn’t seem too both­ered by their or­deal. They said they had all the es­sen­tials they needed: a place to stay, food and wa­ter.

“It’s been a shaky ex­pe­ri­ence, all good though,” Kurt Sap­well said when PrimeMin­is­ter JohnKey vis­ited the town.

His wife added that their honey­moon had been “mem­o­rable”.

Fly­ing over a large land­slide in a he­li­copter, Key ex­pressed John Key, sur­prise at the amount of de­bris. “Look at this road here, this is re­ally stuffed and there’s thou­sands of me­ters of it,” Key said. “I just don’t see how you can ever re­pair that bit of road. The whole moun­tain has moved over.”

Home to 2,000 res­i­dents, Kaik­oura was a pop­u­lar des­ti­na­tion for trav­el­ers want­ing to go on whale-watch­ing ex­pe­di­tions. On Wed­nes­day, Key promised busi­ness own­ers the gov­ern­ment would pro­vide fi­nan­cial as­sis­tance for them through what was go­ing to be a tough sum­mer.

Au­thor­i­ties on Wed­nes­day also man­aged to clear an emer­gency in­land road to Kaik­oura, al­though it was only open for mil­i­tary ve­hi­cles.

Neil Walker, the high­ways man­ager for the New Zealand Trans­port Agency, said the road re­mains high-risk and un­suit­able for cars, al­though crews were work­ing to open it to the pub­lic by the week­end.

In the cap­i­tal, Welling­ton, sev­eral streets re­mained cor­doned off af­ter en­gi­neers de­ter­mined that a nine-story of­fice build­ing was in dan­ger of col­laps­ing.

Welling­ton Mayor Justin Lester said the build­ing would likely have to be de­mol­ished. He said he didn’t be­lieve it posed a risk to pub­lic safety be­cause of the pre­cau­tions au­thor­i­ties had taken in evac­u­at­ing the area around it.

I just don’t see how you can ever re­pair that bit of road. The whole moun­tain has moved over.” New Zealand’s prime min­is­ter

AMANDA MCERLICH / NEWZEALAND DE­FENSE FORCE VIA AP

Evac­uees board the naval ship HMNZSCan­ter­bury onWed­nes­day to leave the earth­quake-hit town of Kaik­oura.

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