Airlift to evacuate tourists from New Zealand quake zone

WELLINGTON — A helicopter airlift was underway Tuesday to ferry about 1,000 tourists out of a New Zealand township that was cut off in Monday’s deadly earthquake.

Air force helicopters were set to join dozens of private aircraft to fly emergency supplies into the tourist town of Kaikoura, on the northeast of the South Island, and to fly out stranded travelers, Radio New Zealand reported.

All roads into Kaikoura, a popular tourist destination famed for its coastal scenery and whale-watching activities, were blocked by landslides in the 7.5-magnitude quake struck just after midnight Monday.

The New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) said Monday it was sending the navy supply ship HMNZS Canterbury to help evacuate tourists and residents from Kaikoura and bring aid supplies to quake-affected areas.

The area had been shaken by hundreds of aftershocks some of them severe and the aftershocks would continue, the Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management said Tuesday.

The New Zealand Fire Service had deployed two water purification units and communications equipment to Kaikoura.

The equipment would ensure a supply of safe drinking water in Kaikoura and establish satellite communications and Internet for the disaster relief effort, fire service national response coordinator Paul Turner said in a statement.

Two people died in Monday’s quake: one in a collapsed house in Kaikoura and another at a property at Mount Lyford, north of Christchurch. PNA/