Thousands stranded in New Zealand after earthquakes

 

(CNN) — After being rocked by a deadly 7.8-magnitude earthquake, a wave of powerful aftershocks, thousands are now stranded in a New Zealand town near the quake’s epicenter.

A local state of emergency has been declared for the region of Canterbury, which is home to the areas hardest hit by the quake.

Helicopters are being sent to airlift trapped tourists and locals from cut-off communities in the Hurunui and Kaikoura districts, according to the New Zealand Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management.

Related: 3 cows stranded on tiny ‘island’ after huge New Zealand quake

A pair of ships, the HMNZS Canterbury and HMNZS Wellington, have also been sent to waters off the coast of Canterbury to assist.

Aftershocks have rattled the region during rescue efforts. They’re are expected to continue following the initial quake, which killed two people after it struck early Monday local time, New Zealand authorities said.

“We can say one thing with certainty: there will be more earthquakes to come in this area,” said GeoNet, New Zealand’s official source of geological hazard information.

Kaikoura, which is near the epicenter of the quake, is now cut off from the rest of the country.

The town, known for its prime whale watching and scenic vistas, is about a two and a half hour drive north of Christchurch.

The government is working to evacuate about 140 people out of Kaikoura, according to Prime Minister John Key.

He said the U.S. Navy had volunteered its help to ferry people out aboard two helicopters on the USS Sampson, which is in the area. Key said he missed a call with US President-elect Donald Trump during the hectic aftermath of the quake.

Chinese state media said it sent helicopters in to evacuate Chinese tourists in the city.

About 40 have been evacuated so far and another 60 are expected to depart soon, according to the Chinese Consulate-General in Christchurch.

Julian Wilcox, who lives in Kaikoura, said his Maori tribe will open up its ceremonial gathering place for people to use as a shelter.

They hosted 500 people Monday and expect to have another 200 stay overnight on Tuesday.

“In times on trouble our role is to look after people, no matter who they are,” Wilcox said.

His tribe, Ngai Tahu, runs a fishing company of the same name. So far they’ve donated 400 lobsters to those in need and plan to donate 400 more on Tuesday, he said.

Landslides

There have been somewhere between 80,000 to 100,000 landslides since the quake, GeoNet said, with areas of the Inland and Seaward Kaikoura Ranges the most affected.

A handful of roads are closed indefinitely, according to the Canterbury Civil Defence and Emergency Management’s Facebook page. But power in some places has been restored, as have limited telecommunications capabilities.

“It’s clear things aren’t going to revert to normal pretty quickly, and that it’s going to take time for things to go back to how they were,” Key said.

Search and rescue teams, landslide specialists and building inspectors have been deployed, the agency said in a statement.

“We know that water, food and fuel are required in Kaikoura, Hurunui and Marlborough, and we’re coordinating relief supplies and transport to get those essentials in,” the agency said.

The Red Cross said in a statement that water is running out. But it has brought generators, satellite communications, an inflatable shelter and water supplies to Kaikoura.

Tuesday rain

Some of the country is now dealing with heavy rain, the effects of which are being exacerbated by the quakes’ aftermath.

However, Kaikoura had been spared the worst of the downpour, according to the country’s meteorological service.

Journalists at Radio New Zealand spoke with one family whose house was on a fault line and moved from its foundation.

A birds-eye view of the house shows the driveway cut down the middle, feet away from where it used to be.

“I’d say it’s billions of dollars worth of money that we have to spend here but we’re focused on what we’re doing and we’ll keep up the good work,” Key said after the quake.