NZ earthquake: Hundreds sail to safety on Kiwi warship

Evacuees rest and relax aboard the Canterbury on its way to Christchurch last night. Photo NZ Defence Force
Evacuees rest and relax aboard the Canterbury on its way to Christchurch last night. Photo NZ Defence Force
Hundreds sail to safety on NZ warship; relief efforts ramped up in Kaikoura; dozens of Wellington buildings unsafe

Hundreds of Kaikoura residents and visitors reached Christchurch on the NZ frigate Canterbury this morning, and the military is turning to delivering supplies to those staying in the earthquake-stricken town.

Kaikoura, in North Canterbury, was completely cut off by Monday’s 7.8-strength quake, with landslides blocking roads and highways, destroying water infrastructure, and knocking out power and communications.

Some 450 evacuees, plus four dogs and seven tonnes of luggage arrived in Lyttelton, Christchurch’s port, about 12.30am. They were in good spirits and took buses into the city for the night.

Another 165 evacuees were airlifted out of Kaikoura on Defence Force helicopters throughout yesterday.

The helicopters also delivered about 8000kg of food, water and other supplies for those remaining.

An Air Force Hercules airdropped about 5000 litres of water, a power generator and water purification system from Linton Military Camp in Manawatu.

Warships from Australia, Canada and the US, in New Zealand for the Navy’s 75th anniversary celebrations, are arriving overnight and today. Surveillance aircraft from Japan and the US surveyed quake-damaged areas yesterday.

The first truck made it through the precarious inland route from Christchurch to Kaikoura last night.

The trip required a loader to push out boulders, a digger to smooth riverbeds and geotechnical engineers assessing whether any of the dozens of slips blocking the road were moving as they travelled through.

Carrying 16,000 litres of water to refill the hospital’s dwindling supplies, the tanker rolled into town about 6.45pm.

With sunburned arms, high-vis vest and shorts, quietly chuffed driver Gerard Daldry reckoned he was due a reward. “I’m buggered – I need a beer.”

Few believed Daldry could get the 20-30 tonne beast over the highway, which has been blocked by multiple landslides brought down in Monday’s earthquake.

It took about four hours to travel the 80km from Waiau to Kaikoura.

In Wellington, the fate of dozens of buildings is still unclear. Council inspectors have found 60 buildings with signs of structural damage and 28 more at risk of part of the building falling down.

One building in Molesworth St in the city centre will be demolished. Homes on a street behind the building remain evacuated.

The Defence Force headquarters, built in 2007, and Statistics NZ’s purpose-designed building on the waterfront, built in 2005, were also damaged.

Prime Minister John Key is calling for answers as to why they were among the worst hit.

Key said officials did not know how many Government departments would need to be relocated. A full review of Government buildings was under way.

Heavy thunder and rain was forecast to hit Wellington overnight, and the MetService issued a severe weather watch for today. Many people are still working from home, unwilling to brave the weather, congested roads and the safety of their office buildings.



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