Rescue in full swing, choppers lifting people from NZ quake areas

Auckland, Nov 16 (IANS) Rescue efforts continued at full swing on Wednesday in Kaikoura, one of the worst hit in the 7.5 magnitude earthquake that shook New Zealand’s South Island on November 13, officials here said.

The Wellington Regional Economic Development Agency said the upper South Island areas of Kaikoura, Hanmer and Marlborough had borne most of the impact of the earthquake and travel to and from these areas had been affected.

“The damage experienced by Wellington facilities has been limited to some office buildings in the CBD (Central Business District),” said a statement. Wellington received heavy rains after the calamity struck New Zealand.

At least two persons were reported to have been killed in the quake and damage worth billions of dollars was reported.

The BBC said the scenic Kaikoura, 180 km north of Christchurch, is closed until further notice due to inaccessibility following the quake, which proved to be ‘catastrophic’ for the area. Helicopters began airlifting people from Kaikoura on Tuesday, after landslides cut off road and rail links. Power and water supplies had also been disrupted there.

The New Zealand Herald said residents and tourists in Kaikoura have been evacuated by air and sea as the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) stepped up its evacuation efforts in the quake-damaged coastal town.

The New Zealand media has cautioned the people to be careful before venturing into the worst-hit areas.

But in most other places such as Auckland, Christchurch and Wellington normal activities, including tourist arrivals, continued as usual. The temblor has failed to dampen the spirit of the people in these places visited by this IANS correspondent who saw shops, cafes and other public places back to business as usual.

According to Adele Fitzpatrick, General Manager Destination, Wellington Regional Economic Development Agency, Wellington has shown “tremendous resilience and responsiveness” to this event.

“Broadly speaking, things are returning quickly to normal in the CBD (Central Business District). Walking around the city today, it’s great to see cafes doing a strong trade and most shops open. Wellingtonians are losing no time getting their city back up to speed,” Fitzpatrick told IANS.

Hotels and tourism operators are open for business. The region’s international and domestic airport, roads, infrastructure, ferries, trains and buses are all operational.

“We know that it’s going to be a strong summer for international visitors to New Zealand. Many will want to include Wellington and our signature attractions — the likes of Te Papa, Zealandia, Weta Cave, the Cable Car — in their experience,” added Fitzpatrick.

The Agency has also urged travellers to continue with their plans to visit Wellington — New Zealand’s largest film production hub — which is largely unaffected by the earthquake that hit North Canterbury. The Sunday night earthquake shook the life of New Zealanders — especially as it came as a reminder of the damage caused to Christchurch by a 2011 temblor.

Despite the earthquake, the Canterbury region — located in the central-eastern South Island of which Christchurch is the largest city — is welcoming visitors too.

“Visitors are welcome across Canterbury and New Zealand’s South Island following Monday’s earthquake,” read a statement released by Christchurch and Canterbury Tourism (CCT).

CCTA chief executive Vic Allen is urging people to keep their travel plans intact and has reassured visitors that the disruption is confined to Kaikoura.

“The South Island remains a safe place to visit. Christchurch, Hanmer Springs, Waipara, Akaroa, Arthurs Pass, Ashburton, Timaru, the Mackenzie district and all other areas of Canterbury are operating as usual.

“Hanmer Springs is open, as is the Waipara Valley wine region, the Tranz Alpine is running as normal from Christchurch to Greymouth via Arthur’s Pass and a daily intercity coach service between Christchurch and Picton is operating via the Lewis Pass,” he said.

He also said that “outside of the Kaikoura district, Canterbury’s accommodation, airports, restaurants, cafes, local transport and attraction experiences are operational. While further aftershocks can be expected, we are well-prepared for earthquakes and are ready to assist visitors”.

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