A major earthquake struck the South Island of New Zealand on Sunday, damaging buildings, docks, gantry cranes, roads and residences. At magnitude 7.5, it was the most powerful in the nation in 150 years – more powerful even than the devastating Christchurch earthquake of 2011.
A number of magnitude 5 to 6 aftershocks continued through Sunday and into Monday. The authorities called for evacuation of low-lying areas on fears of a tsunami, but later downgraded the warning.
The epicenter was approximately 60 miles north of Christchurch, near Kaikoura – away from major population centers but close enough to damage the ports of Wellington and Picton.
According to agents Inchcape Shipping, Wellington has gantry crane problems, wharf subsidence and log pile collapses.
Interislander Ferries announced via its social media account on Monday that its Picton to Wellington sailings had been rescheduled for vehicles and vehicle passengers, but due to safety concerns regarding terminal infrastructure, foot passengers would not be able to board until regulatory authorities had given the all clear.
Picton's Shakespeare Bay cruise ship wharf was also damaged. In addition, for cargo bound for inland areas, rail infrastructure is badly damaged in the northern areas of the South Island and some areas around Wellington.
Assessments are under way to determine the extent and seriousness of the problems. Winds in the range of 70 knots complicated the response in downtown Wellington, and workers were temporarily ordered away on fears of falling debris blown loose from damaged buildings.
The port of Christchurch / Lyttleton reported no damage and reopened on Monday.
The Navy's multi-role vessel HMNZS Canterbury is departing Auckland for Kaikoura in order to provide relief assistance, said Civil Defense Minister Gerry Brownlee. She is a ro/ro design with a helicopter flight deck, and is capable of carrying dozens of containers of supplies. The Canterbury was also on hand during the aftermath of the last earthquake in Christchurch.
When she arrives, she will be used to evacuate tourists and residents from the Kaikoura area. She is expected on Wednesday morning. In the interim, the government has deployed 20 helicopters to begin ferrying people out of the town.