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Navy to help to stranded tourists

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 14/11/2016

Offers of military support from the US and Japan have been accepted by Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee as the recovery mission after the latest Canterbury earthquake continues.

Two US helicopters and a plane have been added to New Zealand's aerial support to ferry people from earthquake affected areas around Kaikoura and to help survey the damage.

The South Island town has been cut off to the north and the south, after the massive 7.5-magnitude quake that jolted north Canterbury early on Monday caused widespread damage.

There have been hundreds of aftershocks, and a local state of emergency has been declared in Kaikoura and Hurunui.

"The US Navy has offered two MH60 helicopters, on board its destroyer USS Sampson, which is currently off the Hauraki Gulf for this week's International Naval Review," Mr Brownlee said on Tuesday.

"The US has also offered the NZDF the use of one of its P3 Orions to help with surveillance flights."

An offer from Japan has also been accepted, while Malaysia has indicated its willingness to provide assistance.

About 1200 tourists are stuck in the town, with some needing to leave sooner than others.

"There's a list of about 140 people that we're looking to get out of Kaikoura as rapidly as we can, they're on the priority list," Prime Minister John Key said.

"In terms of aerial support to get people out and make sure we get provisions that are required in, we've got plenty of capacity now ultimately to do that."

The HMNZS Canterbury is also heading to Kaikoura to help evacuate earthquake-stranded tourists and deliver emergency supplies.

Air Commodore Darryn Webb, the Acting Commander Joint Forces New Zealand, says the multi-role vessel will pick up supplies on its way from Auckland.

It is expected to arrive on Wednesday morning.

The New Zealand Defence Force has also deployed a seven-member team to help assess the damage.

A RNZAF NH90 helicopter flew the NZDF reconnaissance team and civil defence staff to Kaikoura on Monday afternoon.

A C-130 Hercules was deployed to Christchurch in advance of anticipated tasking requests and other defence aircraft and vessels have been placed on standby.

As well, more than 100 NZDF personnel from Burnham Military Camp and RNZAF Base Woodbourne are assisting Christchurch Civil Defence authorities.

Acting Civil Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee says the immediate priority is getting clean water, food and other essential items to Kaikoura's residents and an estimated 1000 tourists there.

The items will be delivered by NH90 helicopters, which have already made a number of runs, and on board the Canterbury.

Mr Key and acting Civil Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee toured the region from the air on Monday with opposition leader Andrew Little.

Mr Brownlee said other affected areas - including Hanmer, Waiau and Marlborough - have adequate communication and supplies at this stage, but the widespread destruction and subsequent aftershocks will take considerable time and resources to repair.

But he said any suggestions that the Earthquake Commission would be financially stretched in meetings its obligations "are ill-founded", adding that EQC was guaranteed by the Crown.

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