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Wednesday, November 16, 2016, 17:58

Evacuation of NZ town cut off by quake nearly over

By Associated Press
Evacuation of NZ town cut off by quake nearly over
This handout photo from the New Zealand Defence Force taken and received on Nov 16, 2016 shows people walking to a helicopter with their suitcases as hundreds of tourists are evacuated from Kaikoura, after an earthquake hit New Zealand on Monday. ( SGT SAM SHEPHERD / NEW ZEALAND DEFENCE FORCE / AFP)

WELLINGTON, New Zealand — New Zealand military leaders said Wednesday they had almost completed the evacuation of more than 700 tourists and residents from a small coastal town , two days after a powerful earthquake cut off train and vehicle access.

The magnitude 7.8 quake left two people dead, triggered a small tsunami, and brought down rocks and mud that swept across highways.

Air Commodore Darryn Webb, the acting commander of New Zealand's Joint Forces, told The Associated Press that crews were loading about 380 people and three dogs onto a navy ship. He said the ship was due to leave Wednesday evening for a six-hour trip to a port near Christchurch.

Webb said it had evacuated another 340 people by helicopter since Tuesday.

Other tourists have left by chartering their own helicopters or having air transport provided by their embassy. Some have chosen to stay until an inland road reopens

Other tourists have left by chartering their own helicopters or having air transport provided by their embassy. Some have chosen to stay until an inland road reopens.

"I think it's gone really well," Webb said. "We were fortunate to have a reasonable break in the weather today."

Webb said warships from Australia, Canada and the US were due to arrive soon and would help restock the town with water, fuel and other supplies as well as transport needed equipment.

Evacuation of NZ town cut off by quake nearly over
In this Nov 15, 2016 photo, Doug Winter from the Red Cross disaster response team gets a hug from Britain's Amy Cook, right, after she found out she was getting flown from Kaikoura, New Zealand, following Monday's earthquake. (Mike Scott/New Zealand Herald via AP)

Australian honeymooners Kurt and Kailah Sapwell were among the tourists stuck in Kaikoura but they didn't seem too bothered by their ordeal. They said they had all the essentials they needed: a place to stay, food and water.

"It's been a shaky experience, all good though," Kurt Sapwell said when Prime Minister John Key paid a visit to the town. His wife added that their honeymoon had been "memorable."

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