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Update: NZ battens down for storm after earthquake kills two people

The earthquake was centred at Hamner Springs and felt over much of New Zealand

Update: NZ battens down for storm after earthquake kills two people

Hours after a massive earthquake rocked NZ and killed two people, a major storm is brewing

Update: NZ battens down for storm after earthquake kills two people

New Zealanders, rocked by a huge earthquake that hit the country and killed two people just after midnight, continue to feel aftershocks and await a storm bearing down on the regions worst affected by the quake.

Niwa, the national meteorological service, is warning heavy rain and wind will batter the upper South Island and lower North Island from this afternoon to tomorrow morning.

There’s a rain warning for northwest Nelson, Buller and Westland north of Fox Glacier. Up to 200m of thundery rain is expected to fall about the ranges and 150mm near the coast.

A heavy rain watch is in force for heavy rain across Nelson, the western ranges of Marlborough and North Canterbury high country.

Niwa is warning the rain may cause flooding which may hinder recovery efforts.

A severe weather warning has been issued for strong winds with damaging gusts up to 140kmh in Wellington, Wairarapa and Marlborough.

LOOTING REPORTED

Police are investigating three burglaries reported in the aftermath of 7.6 strength earthquake, centred around Hamner Springs in the north of the South Island.

Christchurch police received three reports of burglaries, which Superintendent John Price said “appear to have occurred while people were evacuated following the earthquakes”.

The NZ Herald revealed that Melissa and Matt Mill arrived home about five hours after fleeing their New Brighton home following the nationwide tsunami warning triggered by the earthquake. Their house had been ransacked.

The couple have two daughters and the youngest has muscular dystrophy. “That’s why we left, because we thought it was safer for her if anything happened, like if there was a tsunami,” Melissa said.

“We came up the driveway and saw the work truck was gone,” she said. “Then we saw the front door was open, the side door, the garage door and the sleepout.”

The truck and $5000 hearing device relied upon by their disabled 12-year-old daughter were stolen, as well as their television and an Xbox.

“I feel sick,” she said. “I feel absolutely devastated.”

She said police had been alerted but due to the ongoing earthquake situation they said it could be two days before anyone could get to the home.

“They have been through everything,” Melissa said. “It’s really horrid. We took our family away to be safe and came back to all of this… it’s just devastating.”

Price said: “It is extremely disappointing that in a time when people are facing a traumatic event, others decide to take advantage like this.”

He said the fear of being looted should not trump personal safety when it came to returning home.

EXAMS CANCELLED

Thousands of secondary school pupils were due to sit major national exams today, but many spent a sleepless night huddled outside or in evacuation centres.

The NZ Qualifications Authority said NCEA (national certificate) exams will continue as normal in schools that have not been earthquake-affected. Where schools have been closed, students will be internally assessed.

However, scholarship exams – for students about to enter university – were postponed.

Victoria University of Wellington will close for the day as work continues to inspect buildings and ensure the campus is safe.

Massey University said its Wellington and Manawatu sites would close, but its Auckland campus is open and exams will go ahead today.

There are widespread school and early childhood centre closures. Ministry of Education official Jerome Sheppard said they were telling schools and early childhood centres from North Canterbury to Wellington to stay closed until buildings had been checked.

Schools and early childhood centres in areas affected by tsunami warnings had also been told to stay closed while warnings were in place.

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