Relieved tourists escape quake town
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 late yesterday at Kaikoura, the South Island seaside town that bore the brunt of the powerful 7.8 tremor.
Vessels from the United States, 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 2000 was bolstered by about 1000 tourists, attracted by the region’s 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.
Most of the visitors were airlifted out by military helicopters, with about 250 set to depart on HMNZS Canterbury for nearby Christchurch.
The tremor was felt across the country, causing violent shaking in Wellington about 250 kilometres (155 miles) 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 buildings in downtown Wellington.
At least one has been rated as being in imminent danger of collapse and will be carefully demolished, while another was a new government office block that was supposed to be quake-proof.
The tremor, one of the most powerful ever in the quake-prone South Pacific nation, has been followed by more than 1700 aftershocks, complicating relief efforts.
The 7.8 quake is the joint secondstrongest ever recorded in New Zealand. It stirred painful memories for residents of Christchurch, which was devastated five years ago by a 6.3 tremor that killed 185 people. –
Tourists head to a helicopter with their suitcases as hundreds are evacuated from Kaikoura which bore the brunt of the powerful 7.8 tremor that shook New Zealand’s South Island on November 14.