Relieved tourists escape NZ quake town
WELLINGTON: Rescuers in New Zealand yesterday completed a mass evacuation of tourists stranded after a devastating earthquake, as officials in the capital Wellington sealed off dozens of potentially dangerous office blocks.
The last of the trapped holidaymakers boarded the navy ship HMNZS Canterbury yesterday at Kaikoura, the South Island seaside town that bore the brunt of the powerful 7.8 tremor.
“We got them all out, it was a superhuman effort,” Red Cross spokesman Simon Makker said from the stricken town.
“The last of them were cheering and dancing down the street on their way out. It was pretty cool.”
Vessels from the US, Canada and Australia are also steaming toward the town to provide emergency supplies and logistical support.
At the time of the quake, Kaikoura’s population of 2,000 was bolstered by about 1,000 tourists, attracted by its renowned whale-watching cruises.
They were stranded when the tremor, which claimed two lives, severed road and rail access, leaving the town short of water and with little power.
Makker said most of the visitors were airlifted out by military helicopters.
“There might still be a few stragglers left, but the focus now turns to the welfare of the residents,” he said.
The tremor was felt across the country, causing violent shaking in Wellington about 250km away.
The capital was initially thought to have escaped serious damage but the local council said yesterday that engineering inspectors had raised concerns about some 60 downtown buildings. – AFP