Earthquake-battered central New Zealand woke to heavy rain and gales today, 24 hours after a massive tremor that killed two people. The weather hampered attempts to evacuate people from the worst-hit area around the northern South Island town of Kaikoura, which remains cut off, without power, sewerage and water.
Hundreds of aftershocks have followed yesterday’s 7.5-strength quake.
Civil Defence has promised anyone who wants to get out of the town would be able to get on a helicopter throughout today. Four Air Force helicopters are ferrying people out and supplies in.
This includes an estimated 1200 tourists. They began being airlifted out of the region last night, with the Chinese Government chartering a helicopter to some of its citizens to safety.
Stray Travel plans to fly a private plane in today to carry 30 foreign tourists and their driver to Christchurch.
Two Navy ships are sailing from Auckland and will arrive tomorrow with supplies and to continue the evacuation.
Last night between 70 and 100 people remained at Takahanga Marae with nowhere to go. That was a significant drop on the 700 people who stayed at the marae on Monday night.
Civil Defence will send staff into Kaikoura today. Power and communications are intermittent and it will take several days to get inland roads into the town up and running. The main coastal highway is wrecked.
In the meantime, those still in Kaikoura have been asked to sit tight. They are urged to conserve water, with just three days’ supply remaining.
The upper South Island and lower North Island, including Wellington, has been warned to expect extreme weather.
Police and Marlborough Civil Defence evacuated six people from the Clarence River area today, after 30 rafters and kayakers were rescued from the same area yesterday.
The Pelorus River area in the Marlborough Sounds received 112mm of rain in the past 24 hours, and more rain is forecast through until Thursday.
There has been flooding west of Canvastown and the Wakamarina River has burst its banks.
In the Wellington region, heavy rain and high winds have led to road closures and surface flooding today. Lower Hutt, caught between the Hutt River, steep hills and the harbour has been worst hit.
Last night was marked by aftershocks, wind and rain – motorway signs replaced a tsunami alert with a warning of extreme weather.
The official line is that Wellington’s CBD is open for business today, but the city remains a ghost town. Several streets are closed because of the risk of falling glass.
Few of the capital’s suits made their way to work. Inner-city cafes which would usually be full of people having breakfast and queuing for coffee had empty tables. Buses were running but had many empty seats.
In the North Island, the Waikato coastal town of Raglan is close to running out of water. The supply was switched off after discoloured water ran from its spring to the treatment plant.
Locals are taking containers to a water tanker at the fire station.
Looters have targeted at least 19 Canterbury homes and businesses since the earthquake. Laws could be toughened: Prime Minister John Key said he found himself agreeing with NZ First leader Winston Peters, who called on Parliament to condemn the “evil” acts when it sits this afternoon.
A welfare centre has been set up for stranded and displaced tourists at Woodend Community Centre in the Waimakariri district of Canterbury. There is also a welfare centre in Waiau in the Hurunui district.
South of Christchurch, people can head to Alpine Energy Stadium in Temuka Domain and SBS Events Centre, Morgans Rd, Timaru.
In Otago, a welfare centre is open at Owaka Community Centre, Campbell St, Balclutha.
In Marlborough, Tuamarina Hall on State Highway 1, north of Blenheim, has been set up as an evacuation point. Picton residents can head to Waikawa Marae.
In Wellington, refuges have been set up at BizDojo, 115 Tory St, and Houghton Valley School, 110 Houghton Bay Rd.
State Highway 1 from Cheviot to Seddon remains closed. State Highway 7a from the Tekoa Ranges to Hanmer Springs is open to light vehicles only. State Highway 73 from Christchurch to the West Coast is open, via Porters Pass and Arthurs Pass.
Picton, Blenheim and Nelson are accessible from the south via State Highway 7 (Lewis Pass). This will add at least three hours to the journey.
Motorists are advised to take extra care, as continuing tremors and heavy rain raise the risk of rockfalls and landslips.
The Lyttelton Tunnel (State Highway 74), which links Christchurch with the port of Lyttelton, was closed on Monday but has opened.
Interislander ferry sailings resumed at 6pm on Monday but only for vehicles and freight. The Picton terminal is damaged and passengers cannot use it. The Kaiarahi, which spent Sunday night stuck in Cook Strait, unloaded its passengers in Picton but has moved away from the wharf due to concerns about aftershocks.
Wellington International Airport is operating but disruptions continue. Passengers are advised to monitor its website for delays and gate changes. Christchurch and Nelson airports are operating normally.
North Canterbury lines company MainPower says about 1200 homes in Culverden and Cheviot are still without power and restoration could take two days. Marlborough Lines says a few hundred customers in the Seddon, Awatere, Ward and East Coast areas remain off the grid. Some North Island areas between Taranaki and southern Manawatu remain without power.
Most schools reopened today. However, schools and early childhood centres from Wellington to North Canterbury which haven’t had structural checks have been advised to remain closed.
National exams will take place as planned today. Students whose schools are closed do not need to go to exams, and will receive a grade based on their year’s work. The prime minister has criticised the qualifications authority for reinstating the exam timetable.
Massey University exams will go ahead at all its campuses. Victoria University’s Kelburn and Te Aro campuses will reopen, bar a few buildings.
Wellington’s District Court and High Court, the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court, remain closed. Hutt Valley District Court and Blenheim District Court are also closed.