New Zealand navy ships 'shellshocked' quake tourists to safety

2016-11-17 13:49
A stranded tourist being evacuated from Kaikoura to a naval ship, after an earthquake hit New Zealand. (NZ Defence Force/AFP)

A stranded tourist being evacuated from Kaikoura to a naval ship, after an earthquake hit New Zealand. (NZ Defence Force/AFP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Christchurch - There were tears and hugs in New Zealand on Thursday as "shellshocked" tourists who were stranded for days by a massive 7.8 earthquake disembarked safely from a naval warship.

The HMNZS Canterbury docked just outside Christchurch carrying about 450 holidaymakers, who gingerly made their way down the ship's gangplanks in the darkness clutching suitcases and backpacks.

They were the last of about 1 000 travellers trapped in the disaster zone when Monday's tremor devastated parts of the South Island coast and killed two people.

"They're a little bit shellshocked over the last few days," the ship's commander Simon Rooke told Radio NZ as it steamed away from the seaside town of Kaikoura, which bore the brunt of the tremor.

"Now they're in a safe environment I think they're making the most of it for the first time in over 24 hours, being able to relax, even if only a little bit.

"Some people are quite quiet, others are quite bubbly and want to tell us all sorts of things... I've had a couple of tears and couple of cuddles and thanks."

Thousands of aftershocks, landslides

The ship's arrival was the culmination of a mass evacuation operation that swung into action after huge landslides cut road and rail access to Kaikoura.

The rest of the tourists, mostly international backpackers attracted by the region's renowned whale watching, were choppered out on Tuesday and Wednesday.

More warships from the US, Canada and Australia arrived at Kaikoura to provide emergency supplies and logistical support.

The tremor, the second most powerful ever recorded in New Zealand, caused major infrastructure damage when it hit just after midnight Monday.

It tore apart roads and buckled rail tracks, as well as triggering an estimated 100 000 landslides that will take months to remove.

With the South Island's main highway blocked by mountains of rocky debris in several places, Transport Minister Simon Bridges said the repair bill was likely to run into billions of dollars.

"These (land)slips are massive... there will need to be some realignment, there will need to be complex engineering work," he told TV3.

More than 1 700 aftershocks, some measuring more than 6.0, are complicating the clean-up.

The tremor was felt across the country, causing violent shaking in Wellington about 250km away.

The capital was initially thought to have escaped serious damage but subsequent inspections have raised concerns about some 60 downtown buildings, which have been sealed off.

At least one has been rated an imminent threat of collapse and will be carefully demolished, while another was a new government office block that was supposed to be quake-proof.

Engineers are carrying out painstaking inspections, mindful of building failures during a 6.3 earthquake in Christchurch five years ago that killed 185 people.

New Zealand is on the boundary of the Australian and Pacific tectonic plates, which form part of the so-called "Ring of Fire", and experiences up to 15 000 tremors a year.

Read more on:    new zealand  |  earthquakes

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.