Visiting Australian tourists have been impressed by the generosity of New Zealanders, following the 7.5 magnitude earthquake that hit the South Island near Hanmer, 130 kilometres north of Christchurch, early yesterday morning.
The quake killed two people and also shook Wellington, New Zealand’s capital, located at the southern tip of North Island. People were told not to go to work in Wellington yesterday while buildings were checked.
Christchurch city was quick to let the world know it remains fully operational following the quake but tourists are believed to be among those stranded in Kaikoura, a whale-watching destination and a town that’s home to 2000 people. Roads and rail links have been cut off by landslides and Royal New Zealand Navy ships won’t arrive in Kaikoura, on the east coast of the South Island, till tomorrow (Wednesday). A state of emergency has been declared there.
Christchurch and Canterbury Tourism chief executive Vic Allen said the airport, hotels, car and campervan hire companies, conference and meeting venues and visitor attractions in Christchurch were all operating as normal. Damage in the Christchurch CBD appeared to be minimal, although building assessments were still being carried out yesterday.
“Christchurch is now one of the safest cities in the world, following our infrastructure rebuild and strengthening upgrades,” Allen said.
“We are encouraging people to keep their plans to come to Christchurch.”
Meanwhile, an Australian family holidaying in New Zealand was impressed with local generosity, after having to move out of Wellington’s Park Hotel while the property was checked after the quake.
While waiting in the foyer of Wellington’s ‘Beehive’ parliament building nearby, with a few other displaced travellers, a local woman came forward to offer her house for people to stay in. The New Zealand Herald reported the Aussie family were considering the offer, which they called “exceptionally generous”.
New Zealanders are doing all they can to help those affected. North of Christchurch, the popular visitor centres of Hanmer Springs and Kaikoura are currently cut off by road and rail after landslides buried some roads and lines buckled and twisted.
Rescue efforts targeting Kaikoura were hampered yesterday by strong aftershocks – including one of magnitude 6.6 – and severe weather closing in.
Written by Peter Needham