New Zealand Evacuates Quake-Hit Kaikoura

New Zealand Evacuates Quake-Hit Kaikoura New Zealand Evacuates Quake-Hit Kaikoura

New Zealand rescue workers are evacuating scores of tourists and residents from the town hardest hit by a series of powerful earthquakes. Four air force helicopters have been airlifting people out of Kaikoura on the South Island after battling strong winds and heavy rain earlier.

The town, northeast of Christchurch, has been cut off by landslides triggered by the quakes. Hundreds of aftershocks continue to rock the area. Two people were killed in the magnitude-7.5 earthquake that struck the South Island early on Monday, BBC reported.

The capital Wellington, at the southern end of the North Island, was also affected. It was then hit by poor weather on Tuesday, with heavy rain and flooding.

Air Commodore Darryn Webb, acting commander of New Zealand joint forces, told TVNZ that approximately 200 people were being airlifted out of Kaikoura. There are an estimated 1,200 tourists at the popular whale-watching spot, along with a population of about 2,000.

Two ships and other aircraft are assisting with the evacuations, said the New Zealand Defense Force.

Prime Minister John Key said the top priority was to provide desperately needed supplies to Kaikoura. Police have warned that water and electricity supplies are running low, while hundreds of people remain in evacuation shelters and community centers.

At least 1,000 people are being housed in the local marae, or Maori meeting place, in Kaikoura. They had crayfish—the town's speciality—for breakfast on Tuesday, after local fisheries' tanks failed with the electricity shortage.

Transport Minister Simon Bridges told reporters on Tuesday that access to Kaikoura would take "several months" to be reestablished.

Officials assessing the aftermath say billions of dollars of damage have been caused, with major road and rail links severed.

GeoNet, a government-funded project monitoring earthquakes, said aftershocks would continue over the next few months.

Meanwhile, Wellington on the North Island is facing the double whammy of regular aftershocks and intense weather. Heavy rain and winds have shut down some highways and rail lines, closed schools and caused electricity outages and flooding.

A nine-story building in the city's center is in danger of collapsing, the New Zealand Fire Service says, with streets nearby closed.

The first earthquake hit shortly after midnight on Sunday, prompting thousands to flee their homes and head for higher ground as authorities issued a tsunami warning. Waves of around 2 meters hit the coast shortly afterwards, and the tsunami alert was later lifted.

New Zealand lies on the Ring of Fire, the fault line that circles virtually the entire Pacific Rim bringing frequent quakes and volcanic eruptions.

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