Military helicopters and a navy ship were dispatched to rescue about 1,000 tourists and hundreds of residents stranded in the coastal town of Kaikoura, which was cut off from land access.
The town had two days of clean water supplies after the council’s water tank sustained major damage. Helicopters were flying in water bladders and water engineers to try and re-establish a clean supply.
People in Kaikoura were being told to urgently conserve the existing supply and use it for drinking only. Food and fuel resources were also low, though local restaurants and residents donated much of their own stores to the relief effort including seafood and crayfish.
The local marae (Maori meeting house) cooked and served meals for up to 700 people on Monday, Radio NZ reported, and planned to do the same again on Tuesday.
The New Zealand Transport Authority was working with contractors to urgently clear an inland route to the town in the coming days, though their efforts were hampered by frequent aftershocks – up to 800 since the quake – according to GeoNet.
The New Zealand military dispatched helicopters from Wellington and HMNZS Canterbury left Auckland on Monday night stocked with relief supplies. Its journey south was slowed by severe weather and rough seas.
“From all directions, Kaikoura has essentially been isolated,” said Air Commodore Darryn Webb, the acting commander of New Zealand’s joint forces. “There’s a real imperative to support the town because it can’t support itself.”
Webb said the military planned to begin using four NH90 helicopters that could each transport about 18 people out of the town at a time.
“We’re going to get as many people and belongings out as quickly as we can,” Webb said.