NZ earthquake: Flights out of Kaikoura to ramp up - but wait until Wednesday for Navy ships
The Defence Force says they hope to evacuate 16 plane-loads of stranded people from Kaikoura today - if the weather keeps playing ball.
Meanwhile Navy ships being sent to the town, which is completely cut off after the 7.5 earthquake on Monday, won't arrive until Wednesday.
"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 HMNZ 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.
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.
NAVY SHIPS ON WAY
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.
"She's doing the best to get down here as quick as she can," Andrew said.
English tourist Amy, 24, arrived in New Zealand the day before the earthquake happened.
"My parents booked me a flight for [on Wednesday] but it doesn't look like I'll be getting on it.
"We were meant to be getting on a helicopter last night but it turned around."
Amy was on a tour with Kiwi Experience when the earthquake happened.
"I've never been more scared in my entire life, I genuinely thought I was never going to see my partner again.
"My parents couldn't get hold of me for seven hours, I had so many missed messages asking if I'm alive."
English tourists Janice and David said they had received mixed messages about what they were meant to do following the quake.
"It's been a horrific experience, we were both frightened for our lives," Janice said.
"It's been frustrating, we've had conflicting messages about what we are to do."
David said they hoped to leave Kaikoura on Tuesday.
Andrew said the volunteers working in the area were "doing the best job they can" to help those in need.
"They're doing a fantastic job. Disorganisation comes with any event of this scale," he said.
Police have reported the latest on Kaikoura:
- Local phone calls and a localised 111 service are available
- There is approximately three days supply of water left
- 600 people are staying at the marae
- Approximately 10 extra police are being sent in
- The hospital is at capacity
- There are between 600 and 1000 tourists in the town.
Webb said the Defence Force has also deployed a seven-member team to help assess the damage wrought by the massive 7.5-magnitude quake.
"We are ready to provide additional support as required. We have deployed a C-130 Hercules to Christchurch in advance of anticipated tasking requests and have placed our other aircraft and vessels on standby for other tasks including transporting personnel, equipment and supplies needed for the emergency response."
The Defence Force was deploying hundreds of personnel and at least six of its aircraft as part of its effort to support the Government's response to the huge quake.
A spokesman for the Kaikoura Volunteer Fire Service said the Navy reinforcement would come as a relief to beleaguered emergency crews in the area.
The "run-off-our-feet" brigade was too busy to rescue stranded livestock, he said, but that position would be re-evaluated tomorrow.
Earlier, Prime Minister John Key confirmed that the Defence Force could be used to evacuate tourists stranded in Kaikoura.
After flying over quake affected areas in a Defence Force helicopter Key had said that may be the only way to get international tourists and others safely out of the area.
He suggested that the Canterbury might be used to help ferry tourists and camper vans from the area while air force King Air passenger planes, which can carry up to seven passengers at a time, might be able to land at the local airfield.
The local airstrip was probably not big enough to fly in the Defence Force's Hercules transport planes, Key said.
"At the moment Kaikoura is absolutely locked off from the rest of the country," he said.
"If the inland road can be opened up and there can be a pathway through to Hanmer that gives them an access point in and out.
"At the moment the only way in or out is either by water or by air and so temporarily we are going to have to work on that because these slips aren't small in magnitude or easy to resolve.
"There's a huge amount of rubble on the road. In fact the road is utterly buried."
Extra police and other personnel had also been dispatched.
ASSISTANCE FOR BUSINESS
Longer term the Government would look at help to keep local businesses afloat. Many were reliant on the passing tourist trade.
"There's some very short term practical issues that need to be resolved. Ensure we get more food, water and ultimately people in here to support the nearly 600 peopleat the welfare centre because the road access points here are blocked off.
"Theres also the longevity of the businesses here that in the short term aren't going to get a lot of custom because again there's no access point in or out," Key said.
Acting Civil Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee, who accompanied the prime minister on the Defence Force helicopter said viewing the region from the air revealed extensive damage to essential connections and basic infrastructure.
"The Prime Minister and I have now seen first-hand the numerous major slips, which have isolated Kaikoura from the north and south," Brownlee said.
"The roads and railways are things that can be repaired in time but it's important to think of those who lost their lives today or suffered injuries.
"Our immediate priority is ensuring delivery of clean water, food and other essentials to the residents of Kaikoura and the estimated 1000 tourists in the town.
"Other areas affected by today's earthquakes and consequential landslides, including Hanmer, Waiau and Marlborough, have adequate communication and supplies at this stage."
COST IN THE BILLIONS
Key said the cost of the clean up would run into the billions of dollars.
Brownlee said the economic impact on earthquake-affected areas will also be assessed in the coming days.
"Any suggestions the Earthquake Commission will be financially stretched in meetings its obligations are ill-founded. EQC is guaranteed by the Crown.
"This has been a trying day for communities across many parts of the country, particularly those on the east coast of the South Island and Wellington region.
"Agencies will continue monitoring the situation closely. The public should be advised that aftershocks will continue to occur. "
Health Minister Jonathan Coleman said that about 200 people were in the carpark of the hospital in Kaikoura, tapping into the free wifi - the only location in the small town it can be accessed.
Difficult road conditions on Monday had prevented a number of nurses reaching the homes patients they were trying to check on - despite teaming up with the local four-wheel drive club.
QUAKES HAMMER AREA
Kaikoura has been battered by hundreds of earthquakes since the two severe earthquakes hit the area just after midnight on Monday.
— Daniel Bullen (@DanielBullen) November 13, 2016
One person was killed in the town when a homestead collapsed, two others were pulled from the rubble.
There is damage to buildings, rail and roads - including a major slip that cut off the main highway at Ohau Pt north of the town.
Kaikoura is currently without sewerage or household water supply. The Kaikoura District Council is encouraging residents to preserve the water they have. Drinking water can be filled at Austin St, Cromer St, Bayview and Hastings St or Mt Fyffe Ave in the town.
Portaloos are being distributed, otherwise residents are encouraged to use a bucket or dig a hole.
A welfare centre has been set up at Takahanga Marae but the council says it would prefer residents to stay in their own homes and advise a neighbour if they leave.
Ngai Tahu leader and Kaikoura representative Sir Mark Solomon said about 500 people had gathered at the marae.
"The marae is open, it's standing well, there's no damage to it."
He said Ngai Tahu had sent a helicopter to the marae with satellite phones so people could communicate.
Solomon said there was food and gas cooking at the marae, but power, water and sewage systems were down.
He said Ngai Tahu would provide additional support in the coming days, but some things would have to wait for the roads to open.
Solomon owns a house in the Kaikoura area. He said his family were safe, but many roads, bridges, and houses in the vicinity had been severely damaged.