‘ Ut­ter dev­as­ta­tion’ af­ter quake hits New Zealand

> At least two peo­ple killed, af­ter­shocks rat­tle nerves

The Sun (Malaysia) - - NEWS WITHOUT BORDERS -

WELLING­TON: A pow­er­ful 7.8 mag­ni­tude earth­quake pum­melled cen­tral New Zealand early yes­ter­day, killing at least two peo­ple, dam­ag­ing roads and build­ings and set­ting off hun­dreds of strong af­ter­shocks.

Emer­gency re­sponse teams flew by heli­copter to the re­gion at the epi­cen­tre of the tremor, which struck just af­ter mid­night some 91km north­east of Christchurch in the South Is­land, amid re­ports of in­juries and col­lapsed build­ings.

“It’s just ut­ter dev­as­ta­tion, I just don’t know ... that’s months of work,” New Zealand Prime Min­is­ter John Key told civil de­fence min­is­ter Gerry Brown­lee af­ter fly­ing over the coastal town of Kaik­oura, ac­cord­ing to Brown­lee’s Twit­ter ac­count.

He de­scribed land­slips in the area as “just hor­ren­dous”.

In a state­ment, Key said of the likely dam­age bill: “You’ve got to be­lieve it’s in the bil­lions of dol­lars to re­solve.”

Pow­er­lines and telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions were down, with huge cracks in roads, land slips and other dam­age to in­fras­truc­ture mak­ing it hard to reach the worst-af­fected ar­eas.

A tsunami warn­ing that led to mass evac­u­a­tions af­ter the orig­i­nal quake was down­graded af­ter large swells hit New Zealand’s cap­i­tal Welling­ton, in the North Is­land, and Christchurch.

Welling­ton was a vir­tual ghost town with work­ers or­dered to stay away while the city coun­cil as­sessed the risk to build­ings, sev­eral of which were dam­aged by the tremor.

There were con­cerns that loose glass and ma­sonry could be dis­lodged by se­vere weather hit­ting the cap­i­tal, with 140kph winds fore­cast.

Hun­dreds of af­ter­shocks, the strong­est a 6.2 quake at 1.45pm (8.45am in Malaysia), rat­tled the South Pa­cific coun­try, fray­ing nerves in an area where mem­o­ries of a deadly 2011 quake in Christchurch are still fresh.

New Zealand’s civil de­fence de­clared a state of emer­gency for the Kaik­oura re­gion, cen­tred on a tourist town about 150km north­east of Christchurch, soon af­ter yes­ter­day’s large af­ter­shock.

Kaik­oura, a pop­u­lar spot for whale watch­ing, ap­peared to have borne the brunt of the quake.

“Our im­me­di­ate pri­or­ity is en­sur­ing de­liv­ery of clean wa­ter, food and other es­sen­tials to the res­i­dents of Kaik­oura and the es­ti­mated 1,000 tourists in the town,” Brown­lee said.

Ur­ban Search and Res­cue said a 20per­son res­cue team and two snif­fer dogs had ar­rived in the town. A sec­ond team was on standby in Christchurch.

Po­lice in the area around Christchurch re­ported 19 bur­glar­ies of homes and com­mer­cial prop­er­ties af­ter the quake as res­i­dents headed for higher ground.

“It is ex­tremely dis­ap­point­ing that at a time when peo­ple are fac­ing such a trau­matic event and com­mu­ni­ties are com­ing to­gether to sup­port one another, there are oth­ers who are only in­ter­ested in tak­ing ad­van­tage,” Can­ter­bury district po­lice com­man­der Su­per­in­ten­dent John Price said in a state­ment. – Reuters

Res­i­dents Chris and Viv Young look at dam­age caused by the earth­quake along State High­way One near the town of Ward in Blen­heim, South Is­land, yes­ter­day.

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