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Two dead after quake hits NZ

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 13/11/2016 Sean Martin

Two people are dead after a massive 7.5 magnitude earthquake struck New Zealand, which sparked a tsunami warning and has left some towns cut-off, with Kaikoura the most affected.

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 a tsunami warning remains in place from Wellington to Banks Peninsula.

Marlborough District Council says police are working to rescue travellers stranded around Kaikoura.

It says the occupants of at least half a dozen campervans north of the coast town are understood to be due to be airlifted to the Ward welfare centre. Those stranded to the south would be airlifted further south.

The council says there has been major infrastructure damage in Kaikoura, a popular tourist destination and which has about 1000 visitors.

There is no sewerage and no household water supply, but power is gradually 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."

Prime Minister John Key said two people were confirmed fatalities but it was not yet clear if both were as a direct result of the tremor.

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.

Mr Key said a Defence Force helicopter was heading to Kaikoura after the town was cut off by slips and ruptured roads and he would fly there on Monday afternoon to inspect the damage.

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.

Four homes in Christchurch abandoned by owners after a tsunami warning had been burgled, police said.

The initial quake was registered as a 6.6 shake before being upgraded by GeoNet seismologists.

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

A seven-person Fire Service urban search and rescue team was flown by helicopter to Kaikoura and two further assessment teams have been deployed, one to Waiau and one to Blenheim.

Phone services, both mobile and fixed line, were affected in the Kaikoura area.

The national crisis management centre had been activated but a national state of emergency had not been declared.

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 major buildings were showing signs of "structural stress" an inner-city workers were told to stay at home.

Inspections were being carried out on bridges and tunnels around the region he said many buildings would need to be checked for damage.

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. A train was stranded north of Kaikoura after the quake.

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.

State Highways in the South Island have also been closed - SH1 Picton to Waipara and SH7 Waipara to Springs Junction - and many other local roads had also been damaged.

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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