New Zealand Quake Leaves at Least 2 Dead, More Than 1,000 Stranded

PHOTO: Cars and trucks are halted due to earthquake damage on State Highway One near Oaro on the South Islands east coast in New Zealand.
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WATCH Powerful Quake Devastates Remote Area of New Zealand, 2 Dead

New Zealand emergency management officials are planning rescue operations and helping residents recover from a powerful 7.8-magnitude earthquake that struck a remote part of the island earlier in the day, leaving two people dead and more than 1,000 without basic services.

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The quake caused a small tsunami and spurred landslides, but it did relatively less damage than an earthquake that struck the country five years ago. Officials, however, were cautioning that weather conditions could hamper rescue operations.

See below a selection of photos.

As strong aftershocks rattled residents, rescue workers were mobilizing helicopters and naval ships to take part in a rescue operation on Tuesday for the tourists and hundreds of local residents who were left stranded in the town of Kaikoura.

ESRI/AP
PHOTO: Map showing the epicenter of the New Zealand 7.8 earthquake which stuck the South Island, north of Christchurch.

“It’s just utter devastation,” New Zealand Prime Minister John Key said after surveying the destruction.

The quake, which struck just after midnight Monday, cut off train and vehicle access to the coastal town and disrupted drinking water and sewage services.

“Kaikoura has essentially been isolated,” Darryn Webb, acting commander of New Zealand’s Joint Forces, told The Associated Press. “There’s a real imperative to support the town because it can’t support itself."

“We’re going to get as many people and belongings out as quickly as we can,” he added, detailing a plan to send four helicopters capable of transporting 18 people at a time into the region on Tuesday.

A forecast for bad weather conditions could see the rescue mission halted and military aircraft being used to drop fuel, food, water and other necessities into the affected area.

Meanwhile, aerial footage showed three cows stranded on a plateau of grass that was left after their pasture was decimated by the quake.

In other regions of the country, the quake spewed rocks, mud and other debris across highways in other regions. In some areas, roads were left cracked and unusable.

PHOTO: Three cows are stranded on an island of grass in a paddock that had been ripped apart following an earthquake near Kaikoura, New Zealand, Nov. 14, 2016.Newshub via AP Photo
Three cows are stranded on an island of grass in a paddock that had been ripped apart following an earthquake near Kaikoura, New Zealand, Nov. 14, 2016.

In the capital, the country’s parliamentary buildings were opened to tourists and residents who were in need of shelter after hotels were evacuated.

Meanwhile, police were on a heightened state of alert after receiving reports that homes and businesses were being broken into after residents fled.

Prime Minister Key said that cleanup efforts could take months and cost billions of dollars.

Despite the destruction and complicated rescue missions, the quake is being seen as relatively minor when compared to one that struck the country in 2011.

That quake left 185 people dead and did an estimated $25 billion worth of damage.


A Selection of Photos as Rescue and Recovery Efforts Get Underway:

PHOTO: Cracks in farmland around Conway near Kaikoura, New Zealand, are seen after a powerful earthquake, Nov. 14, 2016. David Alexander/SNPA via AP
Cracks in farmland around Conway near Kaikoura, New Zealand, are seen after a powerful earthquake, Nov. 14, 2016.

PHOTO: Earthquake damage to State Highway One near Ohau Point on the South Islands east coast and the train tracks that run along side it, on Nov. 14, 2016.Mark Mitchell/AFP/Getty Images
Earthquake damage to State Highway One near Ohau Point on the South Island's east coast and the train tracks that run along side it, on Nov. 14, 2016.

PHOTO: A lake caused by an earthquake slip forms on the Conway River near Kaikoura, New Zealand after a powerful earthquake Monday, Nov. 14, 2016.AP
A lake caused by an earthquake slip forms on the Conway River near Kaikoura, New Zealand after a powerful earthquake Monday, Nov. 14, 2016.

PHOTO: The aerial photo shows the damage to a state highway near Kaikoura, New Zealand Monday, Nov. 14, 2016 after a powerful earthquake.AP
The aerial photo shows the damage to a state highway near Kaikoura, New Zealand Monday, Nov. 14, 2016 after a powerful earthquake.

PHOTO: A landslide caused by the earthquake blocks Rotherham Road, 68 miles north of Christchurch, Nov. 14, 2016 in Waiau, New Zealand. Matias Delacroix/Getty Images
A landslide caused by the earthquake blocks Rotherham Road, 68 miles north of Christchurch, Nov. 14, 2016 in Waiau, New Zealand.

PHOTO: he walls of a historic church are damaged in Waiau after a earthquake in Waiau, New Zealand Monday, Nov. 14, 2016.AP
he walls of a historic church are damaged in Waiau after a earthquake in Waiau, New Zealand Monday, Nov. 14, 2016.