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The Latest: Evacuation from quake-hit New Zealand town ends

Associated Press Associated Press 16/11/2016
In this image provided by the Royal New Zealand Defense Force, tourists are evacuated by helicopter from Kaikoura following Monday's earthquake, in New Zealand, Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2016. New Zealand military officials said Tuesday that they had evacuated about 140 people by helicopter from a coastal town and were expecting that number to rise to 200 by the end of the day, as a major rescue operation unfolded following a powerful earthquake. (Royal New Zealand Defense Force via AP) © The Associated Press In this image provided by the Royal New Zealand Defense Force, tourists are evacuated by helicopter from Kaikoura following Monday's earthquake, in New Zealand, Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2016. New Zealand military officials said Tuesday that they had evacuated about 140 people by helicopter from a coastal town and were expecting that number to rise to 200 by the end of the day, as a major rescue operation unfolded following a powerful earthquake. (Royal New Zealand Defense Force via AP)

WELLINGTON, New Zealand — The Latest on a strong earthquake that struck New Zealand on Monday (all times local):

5:45 p.m.

New Zealand's military says it has almost completed the evacuation of more than 700 tourists and residents from the township of Kaikoura after the arrival of a navy ship.

Air Commodore Darryn Webb, the acting commander of New Zealand's Joint Forces, said on Wednesday crews were loading about 380 people and three dogs onto the HMNZS Canterbury. He says the ship will leave in the evening for a six-hour trip to the port of Lyttelton, near Christchurch.

Hundreds of people were stranded in Kaikoura after the magnitude 7.8 quake on Monday cut off train and vehicle access to the town.

Webb says it has evacuated another 340 people by helicopter since Tuesday.

Some tourists have left by chartering private helicopters. Others are choosing to stay until an inland road reopens.

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4:15 p.m.

New Zealand transport authorities say they've managed to clear an emergency route to the coastal township of Kaikoura, although it's only open for military vehicles to deliver water and other supplies.

Transport Agency Highways Manager Neil Walker says the inland road remains high-risk and unsuitable for cars. He says crews are working to open the road for the public by the weekend.

The coastal roads to Kaikoura were harder hit and are likely to remain closed much longer.

The magnitude 7.8 quake that struck on Monday left hundreds of tourists stranded in Kaikoura after landslides blocked off all access. The military is evacuating people in helicopters and by ship.

The military say they have evacuated about 260 people by helicopter and 150 by ship since Tuesday.

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11:30 a.m.

President-elect Donald Trump has called New Zealand's Prime Minister John Key to pass on his sympathies for the powerful earthquake that killed two people.

Key's office described the conversation on Wednesday as "very warm and cordial."

The magnitude 7.8 quake that struck on Monday has left hundreds of tourists stranded in the coastal town of Kaikoura after landslides blocked off roads. The military is evacuating people in helicopters.

Trump had tried to get in touch earlier in the week but Key had missed the call in the confusion after the quake.

Key's office said in a statement that he had congratulated Trump on his election win. The leaders also discussed the New Zealand economy, trade, and the relationship between the two nations, which they agreed was in great shape.

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11:10 p.m.

The first U.S. warship to visit New Zealand in more than 30 years is changing course to help evacuate people isolated by an earthquake in the coastal township of Kaikoura.

New Zealand Defense Minister Gerry Brownlee said Tuesday the ship can deploy two helicopters to help move people from the town after Monday's magnitude-7.8 quake cut off train and vehicle access.

The USS Sampson had been due to sail into Auckland on Wednesday as part of 75th anniversary celebrations for the New Zealand navy.

The visit is significant because it ends a 30-year military stalemate between the countries that was triggered when New Zealand banned nuclear warships.

Brownlee says despite the change in plans, it is "poignant" to see the anniversary marked with cooperation and camaraderie.

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8:45 p.m.

New Zealand military officials say they've evacuated about 140 stranded tourists and residents from the coastal township of Kaikoura and expect that number to rise to 200 by the end of the day.

They say two babies were among those rescued Tuesday.

The military is using four NH90 helicopters to rescue those stranded by Monday's powerful earthquake and to deliver supplies.

The magnitude 7.8 quake cut off train and vehicle access to the town, which is a popular destination for travelers taking part in whale-watching expeditions.

Air Force Wing Commander Scott McKenzie said in a statement that military personnel were delivering food, water, diesel fuel and other basic necessities. Authorities have prepared about 5 metric tons (5.5 tons) of supplies in the city of Christchurch.

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7:25 p.m.

Several buildings in the center of New Zealand's capital have been evacuated and some streets cordoned off after engineers determined that a nine-story building is in danger of collapsing, two days after a powerful earthquake shook the city.

Brendan Nally, the regional commander for the New Zealand Fire Service, said engineers were completing an inspection of the downtown Wellington office building Tuesday when they found that a major vertical beam had failed above the fifth floor.

He said that "the building is at significant risk of collapse."

The inspection came after a magnitude 7.8 earthquake rattled much of the country early Monday, just after midnight.

Nally said the building was empty when the quake struck.

He said the buildings that were evacuated include the local headquarters for the Red Cross and the Thai Embassy.

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