New Zealand Earthquake Causes ‘Utter Devastation’, PM John Key Predicts Billion-Dollar Damage Bill


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New Zealand Prime Minister John Key has surveyed the damage caused by a magnitude-7.8 New Zealand earthquake, as aftershocks kicked up dust from the landslides below.

The New Zealand earthquake struck just after midnight on Monday, its epicentre striking about 90 kilometres north-east of Christchurch in the South Island, leaving a trail of destruction and killing two people.

“It’s just utter devastation … That’s months of work,” Mr Key told acting Civil Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee as they hovered above the damage.

He described landslips in the area as “just horrendous”.

In a statement seen by Reuters, Mr Key said of the likely damage bill: “You’ve got to believe it’s in the billions of dollars to resolve.”

Mr Key and Mr Brownlee estimated clearing the debris and blocked roads could take months.

Defence force personnel were planning to take food, water and other supplies to the small coastal town of Kaikoura, which bore the brunt of the damage, on Tuesday.

The New Zealand earthquake completely cut off road access to the town, said resident Terry Thompson, who added that electricity and most phones were also down.

Cars in Kaikoura could be seen lying on their sides and parts of the road were clearly impassable.

A second earthquake, initially measured as magnitude 6.8 but revised down to 6.2, struck hours afterward but there were no reports of deaths or injuries.

New Zealand’s Civil Defence declared a state of emergency for the Kaikoura region soon after the large aftershock.

Hundreds of aftershocks rattled the country where memories of the deadly 2011 Christchurch quake are still fresh.

The city is still recovering from the magnitude-6.3 quake that killed 185 people, but locals say they are taking the latest tremors in their stride.

Power to be restored to cut off town soon

The main road to Kaikoura was blocked in places by landslides, and police were working to airlift out a few tourists stranded in their campervans to the north and south of the town, according to emergency services officials in the nearby Marlborough region.

Marlborough District Council earlier warned residents to flee to high ground immediately after a Slip Dam on the Clarence River breached, sending a large wall of water downstream.

Kaikoura suffered “major infrastructure damage” in the New Zealand earthquake, the Marlborough Emergency Management Group said in a statement.

Sewerage and water supplies were knocked out, though power was gradually being restored Monday afternoon.

Police were in radio communication with the town and mobile phone service was expected to be restored shortly.

The quake temporarily knocked out New Zealand’s emergency call number, 111, police reported.

In Wellington, it collapsed a ferry loading ramp, broke windows and caused items to fall from shelves.

It also forced hundreds of tourists onto the streets as hotels were evacuated.

Cows stranded on grass island near epicentre

Near Kaikoura, three cows looked like they could use a little help after landslides all around them left them stranded on a small island of grass.

Video taken by Newshub news service from a helicopter showed two adult cattle and a calf stuck on a chunk of land in a paddock that had been ripped apart in the quake.

The patch of grass was surrounded by deep ravines of collapsed earth, trapping the animals where they stood.

It was not immediately clear who owned the cattle or what was being done to help them.

Kaikoura is close to the epicentre of the overnight earthquake, and where one of the two confirmed deaths occurred.

The quake was strongly felt to the south in Christchurch but was far less damaging than a smaller 2011 earthquake that devastated the city and killed 185 people.

New Zealand’s 10 million cattle easily outnumber its 4.7 million people.

It sits on the “Ring of Fire,” an arc of seismic faults around the Pacific Ocean where earthquakes are common.

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