New Zealand begins evacuating tourists from quake-hit town

Gale-force winds and rain were hampering recovery efforts, and hundreds of aftershocks continued to rock the region. Photograph:( Reuters )

Reuters Wellington, New Zealand Nov 14, 2016, 08.29 PM (IST)

New Zealand authorities worked on clearing damaged roads on Tuesday (November 15) as hundreds of tourists and residents were in the process of being evacuated from the South Island town of Kaikoura, a day after a powerful earthquake hit the region, killing two people.

Authorities began evacuating hundreds of residents and tourists from quake-struck tourist town of Kaikoura on Tuesday, a day after 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit the region. 

Four defence helicopters along with the Navy's HMNZS Canterbury vessel had started towards Kaikoura where some 200 people are stranded, Air Commander Darryn Webb, New Zealand joint forces interim commander told TVNZ. 

"The priority today is the airlift operation," Air Commander Webb said. "We're looking to do as many flights as we can out of Kaikoura today ... around about four flights, to move approximately 200 of those tourists and residents south."

Officials, however, estimate around 1,200 tourists stranded in Kaikoura. Strong winds, rain and the continuing aftershocks made it difficult for search and rescue personnel. 

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key did an aerial survey of the area, describing the landslides as ''just horrendous," adding the repair work might cost billions of dollars. 

Water, power supplies are completely shut and according to acting civil defence minister, Gerry Brownlee, restoring water and food supplies would be the main priority. However, clearing the debris of the roads will take time. 

The earthquake has caused infrastructural damage, destroyed farm homesteads, shattered glass from high rises in Wellington. 

(WION with inputs from Reuters)