Aftershocks as tourists evacuated in quake-hit New Zealand


Christchurch—Rescuers in New Zealand on Tuesday began airlifting relieved tourists stranded by a 7.8 earthquake that devastated parts of the South Island coast and sparked up to 100,000 landslides.
Military helicopters started ferrying the first of 1,200 holidaymakers trapped in the seaside town of Kaikoura, which bore the brunt of a quake that claimed two lives when it struck early Monday.
Officials said the US and Japanese militaries would also join the relief effort.
Huge landslides cut Kaikoura’s road and rail links, and police said water was running low, power was intermittent and hundreds of people were sheltering in evacuation centres.
The town has a population of 2,000, which Prime Minister John Key said was bolstered by the tourists, mostly international backpackers attracted by the area’s popular whale-watching cruises.
Key said getting them out safely was top priority and four air force helicopters had begun transporting them to nearby Christchurch, with numerous civilian choppers also helping the airlift.
The naval ship HMNZS Canterbury was steaming to the scene and will take hundreds more when it arrives, likely Wednesday.
Key estimated the quake repair bill would reach billions of dollars but said the first job was delivering much-needed supplies to the town.
“It’s more water and food, it’s more chemical toilets, it’s fixing up the road access, getting those tourists out and then ultimately the big clean-up job,” he told TVNZ. The Defence Force said a C-103 Hercules was on standby to drop supplies, while officials accepted a US Navy offer of two MH-60 helicopters and assistance from Japan, the exact nature of which is still under discussion.
Auckland holidaymaker David Foulds said he was relieved to get out of Kaikoura after the frightening ordeal. “We thought it was some guys shaking the car, we didn’t know what it was,” he told AFP. “It (the car) was jumping up and down. It frightened the life out of me.” The tremor, one of the most powerful ever in the quake-prone South Pacific nation, hit just after midnight on Monday morning, with more than 1,200 aftershocks complicating relief efforts.—AFP

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