Stranded Kaikoura tourists overwhelmed by generosity as helicopters fly evacuees out
Tourists stranded in Kaikoura hunkered down on church pews and marae mattresses before waking to a breakfast of donated crayfish.
Dozens of tourists and stranded residents are now beginning to be evacuated from the quake hit tourist town.
The first lot of evacuees were taken by New Zealand Defence Force helicopter to Woodend on Tuesday morning.
Battered by thunderstorms and aftershocks, visitors and residents will be given the option to fly out of the region on Tuesday - if the weather permits.
The township remains unreachable by road, due to massive slips and damage on State Highway 1 after a magnitude 7.5 quake hit just after midnight on Monday morning.
Helicopter crews from across the South Island are working overtime, with extra flights being put on by many companies.
The navy is also en route to the tourist hotspot, which is currently only accessible by sea and air.
"We are looking at four flights [Tuesday] morning and a total of 16 flights today. I must reiterate that's all weather dependent as is HMNZS Canterbury," New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) Senior Lieutenant Commander Geoff Andrew said.
MetService forecasted spots of rain early Tuesday, but expected the rest of the day to be fine, with a high of 27 degrees Celsius.
A severe weather warning had been issued for Marlborough earlier, but the forecast severe gales were expected to ease mid-morning.
A heavy rain warning for the Richmond and Bryant Ranges had already been lifted.
A MATTRESS AT THE MARAE WITH CRAYFISH FOR BREAKFAST
Tourists stranded in Kaikoura say they're "overwhelmed" with the generosity and support of locals.
Kaikoura residents opened their doors to strangers who were looking for a place to sleep after Monday's magnitude 7.5 earthquake.
Others offered breakfast and dinner to people walking past their homes.
At Takahanga Marae, volunteers and employees from quake-affected businesses joined forces to serve food to hundreds of people.
About 90 people hunkered down there overnight Monday, sleeping on mattresses supplied by the marae and Civil Defence.
Takahanga deputy chair Major Timms said Ngai Tahu donated 1.5 tonne of crayfish. Local stores New World and Four Square provided other supplies.
Volunteers he had never seen before and staff from the earthquake-affected Adelphi Hotel were working together in the kitchen to make meals.
They fed up to 900 people on Monday night. Crayfish was on the menu on Tuesday morning.
"It's amazing what they are doing. They are doing a bloody good job," Timms said.
A pregnant woman and her family were among dozens evacuated from Kaikoura on military helicopters.
The helicopters landed in Woodend School grounds in Canterbury.
John and Rebecca Creswell were evacuated with their three children Sean, 9, Tyler, 4, and Olly, 2.
Rebecca Creswell was given priority evacuation as she is pregnant.
They were on a long weekend camping trip in Kaikoura when the quake struck.
They spent last night sleeping in a car as they wanted to be on high ground.
"I want go home and I want my bed," she said.
"It is good to be here. The ground isn't moving. The whole time since Sunday it has been moving."
"My ankles are very swollen and I need to go home and put my feet up."
People were also arriving from Kaikoura on specially chartered flights to Christchurch Airport.
German tourist Hannah Hoemberg arrived Tuesday with friends Katharina Peskeldis and Sophia Roettgen.
The group arrived in Christchurch on Saturday and Kaikoura was their first stop on a coach tour of New Zealand.
They now planned to leave New Zealand and fly to Sydney, Australia to continue their trip.
"We are relieved," Hoemberg said.
"We are so glad we are on safe ground now."
"It was terrifying. There were all these aftershocks coming through."
"We wanted to see the whole of the South Island and we were looking forward to it but now we've experienced these earthquakes we want to get away from here."
SLEEPING ON CHURCH PEWS
German tourists Christiane and Jochan Wichmann were stranded in Kaikoura in their campervan with little food.
They were "absolutely overwhelmed" by the generosity of the locals, Christiane Wichmann said.
"It's fantastic. They are wonderful people."
St Paul's Presbyterian Church Minister Alastair McNaughton let 30 people stay in his church after it was checked by an engineer and deemed safe.
"It was a serious quake. The house was like being put in a washing machine," he said.
"I went to the hospital first and asked if anyone wanted to volunteer with me and all these hands went up, these people from around the world.
"We jumped in the car and went around to several houses working for several hours and they were so appreciative, it was quite humbling actually."
People slept on the pews in the church, while nearby Churchill Park was "filled with people" sleeping on the grass.
Alex Moyse, from England, and Madeleine Strombac, from Sweden, said a local fisherman rescued them by giving them blankets and tea.
16 FLIGHTS, 12 PEOPLE EACH
Andrew said it was hoped 12 evacuees could be flown out of Kaikoura on each flight, with their luggage, to Christchurch.
"From Christchurch they need to find their own means of travel around New Zealand."
Those with illnesses, pregnant women and people with children would be given priority.
The navy vessel HMNZS Canterbury could carry 242 people and would "take as many as she can", Andrew said.
The vessel is expected to arrive in Kaikoura on Wednesday.
Honeymooners Eddie and Leslie-Anne Llewelyn-Evans spent Sunday and Monday night at a hilltop welfare centre.
The British couple arrived in Kaikoura on Sunday night. Leslie-Anne, who had never experienced and earthquake before, was terrified as the shaking intensified.
"There was glass smashing everywhere, it went on for so long and it was so violent," she said.
They followed the crowds up a bush trail, gleaning information from Japanese tourists who were taking calls from abroad. They were unaware a tsunami warning had been issued.
They ventured into town on Monday morning hoping to help with the clean up but an aftershock sent them running back to higher ground.
On Tuesday they drove their rental car, gas light flashing, to Kaikoura Airport in the hope of evacuation, to no avail. They were not priority passengers and poor weather prevented a second flight.
"There were a number of young families in the shelter so we knew we weren't going to be [a] priority," Leslie-Anne said.
Thankfully, a friend of a friend would fly them out to Golden Bay later on Tuesday, Eddie said.
They understood about 700 people had registered with the Red Cross for evacuation. Many would have to wait for a Navy vessel due on Wednesday.
It wasn't the honeymoon they had planned but the couple did tick off one activity on their to-do list: They slept under the stars on Sunday night.
"People were in candlelight. It would have been romantic in a different setting," Eddie said.
CHINESE TOURISTS ON TOP OF A HILL
Many Chinese tourists were on Tuesday morning sitting on top of a hill, surrounded by luggage, in an area called Seaview waiting to fly to Christchurch.
William Luk, 25, from Hong Kong, said he was relieved to be leaving and felt "lucky to be alive".
The lack of cellphone reception and accessibility to the area made him feel "claustrophobic".
Luk said he was staying at a motel near the waterfront when the earthquake hit. He'd never felt one before.
"The sound was so loud. [Initially] we thought someone was trying to rob us ... banging on the door. Then everything shook."
Luk said when the shaking stopped he and a friend fled to higher ground because of the tsunami threat.
They spent the night under the stars. On Monday night they tried to stay at the emergency shelter, but it was full.
Luckily the motel took the pair in again and gave them a bed for the night, he said.
"People here are so helpful, so generous. It kind of restores your faith in humanity."
DRIVING THEMSELVES TO HOSPITAL
Health professionals in quake-stricken Kaikoura have been kept busy by "high numbers" of people taking themselves to hospital.
St John ambulance officer Sean Lester, who has in been office-in-charge since Monday morning, said a lot of people had been "self-presenting" at Kaikoura Hospital.
"We've been attending routine medical calls as well as minor trauma calls which were earthquake-related and thankfully most of those patients were able to present to the hospital themselves."
Extra staff have been brought in from Christchurch and Nelson.
Hundreds of aftershocks have kept residents of North Canterbury on edge.
"It wouldn't have been the most comfortable night," Hurunui District Council chief executive Hamish Dobbie said on Tuesday morning.
Civil Defence's acting national controller Shane Bayley said anyone who wanted to get out would be able to do so on helicopter flights throughout Tuesday.
There were four NH90 helicopters in operation "ferrying people in and out as well as supplies", which would be used to fly out those wishing to leave.
Tourists began being airlifted out of the region on Monday night, with a chartered helicopter flying some Chinese nationals out, Bayley told media in a briefing at Civil Defence's national emergency control centre at Parliament.
Tour agency Stray Travel planned to fly a private plane in on Tuesday morning to carry 30 foreign tourists and their driver to Christchurch.
OFF THE GRID - LITERALLY
Niky McArthur was on the verge of tears as she talked about the state of her ecotourism business, Kaikoura Wilderness, which is located in a remote valley north of Kaikoura.
"I always thought that whatever was happening in the world we'd be self sufficient up there," she said.
Monday morning's earthquake had crippled the "off the grid" Puhi Puhi Rd business, which offered accommodation and guided walks.
Battery banks powering the lodge were destroyed, gas bottles tipped over and water tanks cracked.
The road to the site was impassable and likely would be for many months.
"I'm not sure if I'm going to cry or not. I'm quite shell-shocked. We won't be able to run a business for [at least] six months. It's going to have a devastating effect."
The full extent of the damage to the Kaikoura area was still not known.
GETTING INTO KAIKOURA
The Canterbury Civil Defence Management Group would send building inspectors and council staff into Kaikoura on Tuesday to "support the response and to boost capability on the ground".
"There's a lot of activity planned for today," Bayley said.
Power and communications were still "intermittent" and there was a big effort going on to get the inland roads into Kaikoura up and running but it will take a couple of days.
As for reopening State Highway 1, which was closed between Blenheim and Kaikoura, and Seddon and Chevior, Bayley said, "that's a major project".
In the meantime, those still in Kaikoura were asked to sit tight.
They were urged to conserve water, with just three days' supply remaining.
"The message is to conserve water and be prepared for a long period of time not being supplied properly," Bayley said.
A welfare centre remained open in Waiau, one of the town's hardest hard by Monday quake. Other welfare centres in the district closed after the tsunami warning was lifted.
Leader Rd and Inland Rd, between Waiau and State Highway 1 on the east coast, remained closed on Tuesday.
State Highway 7 (Lewis Pass) reopened on Monday, and one lane of State Highway 7A to Hanmer Springs village reopened on Tuesday morning.
"We understand some people have got through (on Leader Rd) but we understand it's pretty difficult going through there," Dobbie said.
Some local roads were also expected to have been damaged.
"There's a lot of roads that we haven't got to through there, so we don't know what the condition of them is yet."
The council's priority on Tuesday was getting Inland Rd open between Waiau and Kaikoura and restoring power back to water pumps across the district, Dobbie said.
Generators were being used to keep affected pumps going, but residents were urged to conserve water until power was restored and should boil water as a precautionary measure until further notice.
"We're asking people to only use what they need."