Earthquake: NZ sits on a knife-edge as true cost of damage is counted

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Photos taken from a NZDF helicopter show massive rockfalls in several areas in the upper South Island.

The major route from Christchurch to Kaikoura is impassable.

The NZDF sent helicopters to survey areas in North Canterbury that were rocked by a massive 7.5 earthquake early on Monday.

Historic Waiau Pub co-owner Lindsay Collins looks over the damage.

Hanmer hospitality workers rushed into the streets following a 6.3 magnitude aftershock at around 1.30pm.

Local residents Chris and Viv Young look at damage caused by an earthquake along State Highway 1 near the town of Ward.

Aftermath of earthquake at a house in Waiau, North Canterbury.

Earthquake road damage State Highway 1.

Historic Waiau Pub co-owner Michelle Beri looks over the damage to her bedroom, grateful that she was not sleeping in it at the time.

A railway line is damaged by an earthquake, near Tirohanga stream south of Blenheim.

Stuart Smith stands in a crack in the road at Tirohunga flat near Kaikoura.

Earthquake road damage State Highway 1.

Precariously dangling shipping containers seen on CentrePort wharf in Wellington.

Major road damage near Mt Lyford.

The Elms homestead near Kaikoura.

Ward resident Bryan Phipps surveys the damage to his Ward home after this mornings earthquake.

Local residents Chris and Viv Young look at damage caused by an earthquake along State Highway 1 near the town of Ward, south of Blenheim.

A truck drives over fractures caused by the earthquake, along a road south of Ward.

Slip near SH1 south of Kaikoura.

A slip near Mt Lyford.

Quake rattled seek shelter at parliament.

Trucks parked up on State Highway 1 north of Ward after this morning's earthquake.

Clean-up at Culverden Four Square after the magnitude 7.5 earthquake.

Building damage on High St, Picton following Monday morning's earthquake.

Damage to Needles Bridge, north of Ward, Marlborough.

Builing damage on Picton's High St.

Damage to SH 1 north of Blenheim. Spring Creek bridge closed.

Wellington's Days Bay Wharf was closed following the earthquake.

Confused central city residents in Wellington headed for Brooklyn fearing a tsunami.

Damage to SH 1, near Ward, an hour north of Kaikoura, following Monday morning's 7.5 quake.

The Timaru town clock stopped after the major earthquake just after midnight.

The Timaru town clock stopped after the major earthquake just after midnight.

Residents of low-lying areas of Wellington city were evacuated after a tsunami warning.

Students are moved from an accommodation in Willis St to Cumberland House across the street, because of water damage.

Wellington residents evacuated from a building in Willis St.

Wellington's ferry terminal damaged in Monday morning earthquake.

Civil defence staff keep people from Dunedin's St Clair beach.

Victoria University of Wellington's Kelburn campus is closed.

Earthquake damage at a Wellington home.

Glasson Cuba St.

Pipes are broken with water leaking throughout a Wellington apartment building.

Broken glass and damages seen at Wakefield St, Wellington.

Dirty tap water from a home in Brooklyn, Wellington.

Quake damage seen in Wellington central.

The bridge at Wellington ferry terminal has collapsed.

Damage to buildings on Wakefield Street, Wellington.

Scene in a Wellington resident's home after a quake hit.

Plenty of people in the capital were woken up by shakes and damages were reported in many parts in the city.

Farmers in Cuba St in Wellington.

Fresh Choice in Nelson

Shattered glass in the stairwell of Wellington's Spark building.

Fresh Choice Nelson

Shattered glasses in one of the buildings in Wellington.

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The country has been sitting on a knife-edge as it battled a day of heartbreak and severe aftershocks that allowed a wave of devastation to chew its way across New Zealand.  

Triggered by the 7.5-magnitude earthquake, centred near Hanmer Springs in North Canterbury on Monday just after midnight, the initial jolt was so severe it was felt all the way from the bottom of the South Island to the top of the North Island. 

The earthquake was strongly felt in Christchurch, Wellington and Marlborough but also as far away as Taranaki, Hamilton and Auckland.

Nelson Marlborough Rescue Helicopter Trust assesses the damages caused by the 7.5 magnitude earthquake on Monday morning ...
Nelson Marlborough Rescue Helico

Nelson Marlborough Rescue Helicopter Trust assesses the damages caused by the 7.5 magnitude earthquake on Monday morning in Kaikoura.

In the aftermath, thousands were left scrambling for higher ground after a tsunami alert was triggered, and residents and tourists were left stranded in Kaikoura as the town's roads collapsed around them.

READ MORE:
* Ways you can help after quakes
* Live: 7.5 New Zealand quake causes casualties, tsunamis, and destruction 

* Ghost city: Wellington residents abandon CBD
* Photos: Large quake strikes NZ
* Two dead in 7.5-magnitude quake

One person was killed when a Kaikoura homestead collapsed, while another died of a heart attack at a property at Mt Lyford.

Logs on the Wellington waterfront scattered from their usually neat piles.
KEVIN STENT/FAIRFAX NZ

Logs on the Wellington waterfront scattered from their usually neat piles.

It's still unclear what the true extent of the damage is to buildings and roads, but Prime Minister John Key says it is likely to run into the "billions".

The Kaikoura area was worst affected by the quake, and a military NH90 helicopter was being sent in to assess the extent of the damage.

Key confirmed the navy and air force were called in to evacuate tourists who were desperate to leave the area after being stranded. 

Massey University student exams were called off today due to the earthquake risk. Students Danielle Pearson, Sarah Whiteman.
Murray Wilson/ Fairfax NZ.

Massey University student exams were called off today due to the earthquake risk. Students Danielle Pearson, Sarah Whiteman.

"At the moment Kaikoura is absolutely locked off from the rest of the country," Key said.

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Power cuts to the region meant may homes were left in the dark on Monday night, and there was limited cellphone reception in the area.

The HMNZS Canterbury was also on its way with extra emergency supplies and Key said extra police and other personnel were also been dispatched. 

A tumbled disco ball at Vinyl Bar tells a story of a shaky night on Courtenay Place, Wellington.
TALIA SHADWELL/ FAIRFAX NZ

A tumbled disco ball at Vinyl Bar tells a story of a shaky night on Courtenay Place, Wellington.

Longer term the Government would look at help to keep local businesses afloat as 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 people at the welfare centre because the road access points here are blocked off.

Things took a turn for the worse when a "large wall of water" surged down the Clarence River with residents warned to steer clear of the river and the flood plains.

A slip dammed the river about 10km upstream from the mouth, north of Kaikoura, after the initial quake earthquake. The banked-up water burst through the wall of debris about 4.20pm. A helicopter in the area saw the breach, and alerted emergency services.

Six kayakers and a group of 16 rafters initially thought to be caught up in the deluge were later accounted for.

It would take three to five hours for the deluge to reach the coast, passing alongside about a dozen houses situated along the river.

Further north, the capital was reduced to a ghost town as Wellingtonians and tourists were warned to stay away from the central city as buildings were assessed for damage and glass from tall buildings shattered on the streets.

The TSB Arena and BNZ Centre on the waterfront had the most damage, the Fire Service said.

In the early hours of the morning, thousands filled the hills around the city after being shaken by the initial quake. 

Wellington Free Ambulance was swamped by calls for help, but there were no injuries directly related to the quake among them.

The Interislander Ferry was stranded at sea after being unable to dock at Picton immediately after the quake, and the Wellington ferry gangway was swept away.

In the South Island, the low-lying seaside suburb of Sumner in Christchurch was deserted after residents evacuated, and schools closed for the day. 

But though the damage and aftershocks were a painful reminder of the February 2011 quakes, it did not stop heartless thieves who pilfered more than 19 homes as people evacuated.

A New Brighton family who evacuated their home after the quake returned to find their house ransacked by burglars. They were one of 19 families who reported being burgled after the quake struck.

Roads across the country were also closed and Canterbury and Marlborough, highways, roads and bridges were closed due to quake damage.

St John incident controller Dion Rosario said resources were being sent into North Canterbury, including a command unit.

The quakes also prompted the Ministry of Education to shut schools across the country, and it was announced the NCEA and New Zealand Scholarship exams scheduled for Monday were cancelled.

Exams are scheduled to take place on Tuesday, or in some instances the Ministry said students could be given a deferred grade.

The true extent of the damage will still need to be assessed. 

 - Stuff

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