US warship to help New Zealand earthquake victims
A US Navy warship has been diverted to help evacuate those trapped in the coastal town of Kaikoura, New Zealand, after a magnitude 7.8 earthquake hit the country’s South Island on Monday, Sputnik International reported.
The disaster killed two, injured several more and almost completely isolated the town of Kaikoura, a tourist destination that boasts panoramic mountain views and whale-watching expeditions.
Landslides triggered by earthquake shocks blocked highways leading to the town, and left about 2,000 Kaikoura residents and hundreds of tourists cut off from the outside world, with knocked-out water supplies and sewer systems.
A rescue operation is under way, with military helicopters ferrying people out and delivering food, water, diesel fuel, and other living essentials.
"There's a real imperative to support the town because it can't support itself," Air Commodore Darryn Webb, acting commander of New Zealand's Joint Forces, told the Associated Press.
Answering the plea for help, the US diverted its USS Sampson destroyer to deploy two helicopters to Kaikoura, contributing to the major rescue operation. The vessel was expected to participate in the 75th anniversary celebrations for the New Zealand navy, initially scheduled for Wednesday.
The visit by the US ship is a matter of high importance for both countries as it ends a 30-year military stalemate, following New Zealand's decision to bar nuclear-powered or nuclear-armed ships from using its ports or entering its waters.
New Zealand Defense Minister Gerry Brownlee praised the ship's role in helping quake relief efforts, saying that, "despite the changes to the planned celebrations, it's poignant to see the anniversary marked with such cooperation and camaraderie."
He added that Australia's HMAS Darwin and Canada's HMC Vancouver were also expected to arrive to Kaikoura.