NZ EARTHQUAKE – THE HEADLINES
- The massive earthquake struck at midnight local time, centred in the North Canterbury town of Culverden. This is near the disastrous 2011 Christchurch quakes. The quake was felt over most of the country
- At least two people have been killed – one suffered a heart attack in North Canterbury; another was killed when a historic homestead in Kaikoura was flattened
- A 100-year old woman and her daughter-in-law were rescued from the rubble of the homestead; the women’s son and husband died
- Kaikoura and several small South Island towns have been left isolated, with water and sewerage systems down, roads and rail lines blocked
- Wellington is also badly hit, with damage to buildings and roads – people have been ordered to avoid the capital’s CBD
- Residents in coastal areas around the nation fled their homes after a tsunami threat. They were allowed to return later in the morning but have been warned to be alert as aftershocks continue
- Police are investigating three cases in which vacant houses were ransacked by burglars
- Students sitting end-of-year exams face disruption, delays – some national exams have been called off
- The 111 emergency phone system failed to cope in the worst-affected areas and will be reviewed
- Power is out, particularly in many remote areas. Landslips have closed main highways, country roads and rail lines, especially in the northern South Island
- Schools from North Canterbury to Wellington will remain shut until damage is assessed
- High winds and heavy rain are expected to lash the quake-hit areas overnight
‘WORSE THAN THOUGHT’
Prime Minister John Key says the damage to the Kaikoura region of New Zealand’s South Island from today’s earthquakes is worse than thought.
Key, acting civil defence minister Gerry Brownlee, opposition leader Andrew Little and several journalists were taken to the area by Air Force helicopter during the day.
They saw massive slips, the trashed main trunk railway line and broken highways, as well as damage to homes and buildings.
“It’s just utter devastation … that’s months of work,” Key said afterwards.
He and Brownlee estimate the clean-up will cost hundreds of millions of dollars and clearing debris and blocked roads could take months.
The Air Force is preparing to take tonnes of food, water and other supplies to Kaikoura tomorrow.
Some 1200 tourists are stranded in the popular tourist town, centre of New Zealand’s whale-watching safaris. The Government is looking at options to help them get out.
Cellphone networks will soon be live again in Kaikoura. Power is gradually being restored but sewerage systems and water supplies are still down. Civil Defence says and it could be days or even weeks before they are back up and running.
SAFE AND SOUND
While Key said he hoped no cars were caught in the heavy rockfalls, there’s good news of one truck driver earlier reported missing.
Dennis Dunn had a narrow escape after getting caught between two large slips on the Kaikoura coast.
Dunn, in his fifties, was last spotted 30km south of Kaikoura shortly before the quake struck and was not heard from again till mid-afternoon, when he was found “safe and well”
His boss, Shane Pearson, said getting the call from his employee was “better than winning lotto”.
“He was right in the middle of it. He was hysterical. We don’t know how bad it is, but he’s alive, that’s the main thing.
“He’s on the side of the road, his phone was going flat, so we couldn’t talk for longer.”
Pearson said the driver had a wife and two girls who’d been worriedly waiting in Christchurch for news.
“He’s going to get told off because he rang me instead of her first.”
It was two earthquakes – not one. That appears to be the explanation for this morning’s long, unrelenting shaking.
Sara McBride of the GeoNet national geological unit said the quakes hit one after the other and were each a different type of seismic shift.
“Our reports indicate that the combination of these two quakes lasted two minutes, with the most severe shaking around 50 seconds.”
One of the quakes appeared to have been a “strike-slip” event, a vertical fault which moves horizontally.
The other was a “thrust fault”, where older parts of the earth’s crust are shoved up through the earth on top of newer layers.
Nearly 400 aftershocks have struck New Zealand since the massive 7.5-strength quake at 12.03am. By 2.10pm, 382 aftershocks had struck. Of those, 216 were over 4-strength, and rumblings continue by the minute.
RED CROSS APPEAL
Red Cross has launched an emergency appeal to support communities affected by the earthquakes. People can donate to Red Cross’ November 2016 Earthquake Appeal at redcross.org.nz/donate/