New Zealand‘s South Island was rocked on Sunday by a 7.8 earthquake, destroying sections of many vital railroads and highways. The powerful quake has left thousands stranded and at least two dead near the town of Kaikoura.
As a result of the earthquake, its powerful aftershocks, and a small tsunami, tens of thousands have fled their homes. Water supplies, sewage, and even accessibility for the Red Cross have been cut off, making aid and recuperation difficult in the aftermath of the disaster.
The town of Kaikoura, population 2,000, was the hardest-hit. Famous for its whale watching, the normally lively town is now completely isolated, without working phone lines or roads in and out. Darryn Webb, commander of New Zealand’s Joint Forces, has stated, “There’s a real imperative to support [Kaikoura] because it can’t support itself.”
There are forecasts of winds of more than 90 miles an hour in this region as well as accounts of looting, underlining the fact that the hardship is far from over. With all major routes to the affected area cut off, it’s unclear how long it will take to restore the town and the surrounding lands, and the infrastructure reparations are expected to cost billions of dollars.
The effects of the quake have reached far outside the most hard-hit areas. In Wellington, the country’s capital, the earthquake displaced hundreds of tourists as hotels were evacuated Sunday night.
Tourism and transportation will continue to be impacted throughout the country, with many cancellations, closures, and postponements expected on the South Island.