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Devastating quake wrecks road and rail

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 14/11/2016 Sean Martin

The deadly 7.5 magnitude earthquake that struck New Zealand just after midnight caused widespread destruction that will take many months to repair.

It claimed two lives, wrecked roads and railways, and has left towns isolated.

Prime Minister John Key, who flew over the devastated Kaikoura region on Monday, says it could cost billions.

"It's just utter devastation," he told reporters.

"There are huge slips on SH1, probably half a dozen of them, it's going to be a very, very big job for the Transport Agency."

Acting Civil Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee, who was with Mr Key, says the slips have isolated Kaikoura from the north and the south.

"The economic impact will be assessed in the coming days," he said.

"The widespread destruction will take considerable time and resources to repair."

Mr Brownlee says the immediate priority is ensuring the delivery of clean water, food and other essentials to the residents of Kaikoura and the estimated 1000 tourists there.

The Defence Force has been given the job, and will mainly use its helicopters.

HMNZS Canterbury will also be used.

The quake, located near Hanmer Springs in North Canterbury at a depth of 15km, struck minutes after midnight and more than 250 aftershocks have since rattled the country.

A local state of emergency has been declared in Kaikoura and Hurunui, and Marlborough District Council says police are working to rescue travellers stranded around Kaikoura.

There is no sewerage and no household water supply, but power is being restored.

Shops are closed and people are not able to buy food, fuel or water.

"All residents are strongly urged to conserve water," the council said.

"It may take days to restore the household water supply."

Mr Key said there were two confirmed fatalities but it was not yet clear if both were as a direct result of the quake.

Police earlier said a casualty was reported at the heritage-listed Elms Homestead at Kaikoura and another person was believed dead at a house at Mt Lyford, north of Christchurch.

An Air Force Orion had surveyed main transport routes between Picton and Christchurch.

Schools and early childhood centres from Wellington to Canterbury would remain closed until they had been assessed.

A host of aftershocks above magnitude 5 were recorded with the biggest a 6.3 tremor.

People in Cheviot, near the epicentre of the first quake, reported extensive damage.

"Family friends in Cheviot say some houses are gone" a woman named Brodie tweeted.

In Wellington some buildings were damaged and windows were smashed.

Wellington Region emergency controller Bruce Pepperell said a number of buildings were showing signs of "structural stress" and inspections were being carried out on bridges and tunnels around the region.

KiwiRail said it had suspended trains on the main trunk line south of Palmerston North in the North Island and north of Christchurch in the South Island.

Cook Strait ferry sailings have been cancelled and about 20 passengers aboard the Kaiarahi spent about 12 hours longer than planned on the vessel after it was unable to dock at Picton.

The quake comes almost six years after a destructive 6.3 earthquake that killed 185 people in Canterbury early in 2011.

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