Two people have died in series of earthquakes
Small tsunami hits country's eastern coast, although warning has since been lifted
A series of powerful earthquakes jolted New Zealand’s South Island Monday, triggering a tsunami and sending aftershocks across the country that left at least two dead, officials said.
The first event, a 7.8-magnitude quake, struck just after midnight Monday near the coastal community of Kaikoura, some 93 kilometers (55 miles) northeast of the city of Christchurch, the US Geological Survey reported.
It triggered waves of 2.49 meters (8 feet) above usual tide levels, the highest he has seen in his 38 years in New Zealand, Philip Duncan of Weather Watch New Zealand said.
An initial tsunami warning was lifted but temblors continued Monday afternoon. A 6.2-magnitude quake struck around 1:30 p.m. 39 kilometers west-southwest of Kaikoura, further north of Christchurch.
Prime Minister John Key posted a short video to YouTube after surveying the damage.
“It’s hard to see how those roads, neither north nor south, will be opened very easily,” he said.
“In the short term what we’re trying to do is make sure that the people of Kaikoura and the likes have food, water, help and backup.
“I’d say it’s billions of dollars worth of money that we have to spend here but we’re focused on what we’re doing and we’ll keep up the good work.”
At least 42 seismic events have been recorded in the area in the last day, according to the United States Geological Survey (USGS).
New Zealand is a South Pacific nation of islands, the two largest being the North and South islands, which are home to most of the population. Aftershocks from South Island reverberated all the way to Wellington, the country’s capital on the North Island, where residents were told to stay indoors Monday.
The New Zealand Defense Force posted aerial images of a huge landslide in the northern part of the South Island, which blocked the road from Christchurch to Kaikoura.
“It is clear from the photos taken by our personnel that the major route from Christchurch to Kaikoura is impassable, Air Commodore Darryn Webb, Acting Commander Joint Forces New Zealand, said.
“So is the road from Kaikoura to Hanmer Springs and the one from Blenheim to Kaikoura,”
The Marlborough government emergency services Twitter account tweeted around 4 p.m. (11.00 p.m. ET), that a dam on the Clarence River had breached and a “large wall of water” was “heading downstream.” Authorities urged residents to seek higher ground.
The regional government also confirmed that a group of kayakers who had previously been feared lost on the river was found and evacuated.