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Navy joins Kaikoura evacuation operation

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 15/11/2016

The navy has begun its operation to help evacuate up to 1000 people from quake-stricken Kaikoura.

The HMNZS Canterbury arrived off the coast on Wednesday morning and those seeking to leave the town, which has been cut-off since Monday's massive quake, which has been upgraded from magnitude 7.5 to 7.8 by GNS Science, were being ferried from shore to the vessel.

Around 150 have boarded the ship, while air force helicopters have continued to take evacuees to Christchurch after more than 200 were transported from the coastal community on Tuesday.

English couple Karen and Robert Corbett, from Liverpool, one of about 60 flown out on Wednesday said they had been well looked after by Kaikoura residents after arriving by military helicopter in Woodend.

"The New Zealand people and certainly people in Kaikoura were absolutely fantastic - their support and organisation was really good," Mr Corbett said.

"You've got a nation to be proud of," Mrs Corbett said.

Another navy vessel, the HMNZS Wellington, had also arrived off the coast and surveyed the harbour area, while the frigate HMNZS Te Kaha and tanker HMNZS Endeavour are due to arrive on Thursday.

United States, Australian and Canadian warships are expected in the next 24 hours, said acting joint forces commander Air Commodore Darryn Webb, and their helicopters would be used to help assist with disaster relief operations.

Civil Defence said between 700-1000 people needed to leave the town.

Most of Kaikoura was expected to be connected to the town's water supply on Wednesday and a water purification system and generator had been transported to the town by a Hercules which would also deliver 5000 litres of water.

The government said a support package would be announced in the coming days for businesses affected by the natural disaster.

Prime Minister John Key visited Kaikoura on Wednesday to meet with business owners and said opening up access to the town via State Highway 1 and fixing the rail line, both hit by a series of large landslides, would take time.

The Transport Agency hopes to open up an inland route to the town by the weekend.

Mr Key spoke with US President-elect Donald Trump by phone who offered his support in the wake of the quake.

Details are emerging of the extent of damage to homes in Marlborough with five properties in Seddon and another four in Ward deemed unsafe to enter.

Power and water is expected to be restored to the community of Waiau later on Wednesday.

There are concerns about sea life on the coast with a major slip coming down at a seal colony at Ohau Point and an uplift in the seafloor by about 2m leaving important paua grounds exposed.

Helicopters were being used to assess farms inland from Kaikoura but about 30 dairy farms were being forced to dump milk because tankers could not reach them.

In Wellington, a vacant office block is set to be knocked down after suffering severe structural damage in the quake.

The eight-storey building on Molesworth Street was cordoned off on Tuesday after the extent of the damage became apparent.

An apartment building in the city was also evacuated after engineers found structural issues during an inspection and there are reports that Defence House, built in 2007, may be out of action for more than a year.

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