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Evacuation from quake-hit New Zealand town ends

Evacuation from quake-hit New Zealand town ends

Military vessels from the U.S., Australia and Canada will accompany four New Zealand naval ships to the area, popular with tourists for its whale-watching operation, Defense Minister Gerry Brownlee said in a statement.

Although the US has a policy of neither confirming nor denying if its military ships are nuclear powered or armed, New Zealand's Prime Minister John Key has said he's satisfied the Sampson doesn't have nuclear capabilities. "Despite the changes to the planned celebrations, it's poignant to see the anniversary marked with such cooperation and camaraderie".

HMAS Darwin is steaming towards New Zealand's earthquake-smashed South Island as part of an effort to evacuate residents from the battered town Kaikoura. It was flawless timing: He lives on the South Island in Christchurch, which was hit hard by the magnitude-7.8 natural disaster that left two people dead. Officials also said that the building's major beam had "snapped like a bone".

"The Red Cross, which used defence force helicopters to bring in emergency generators, satellite communications and water supplies, said water in the town was running out".

They hosted 500 people Monday and expect to have another 200 stay overnight on Tuesday.

The visit by the USA ship is significant because it ends a 30-year-old military stalemate between the countries that was triggered when New Zealand banned nuclear warships.

"We can say one thing with certainty: there will be more earthquakes to come in this area", said GeoNet, New Zealand's official source of geological hazard information.

Wellington Regional Civil Defence Controller Bruce Pepperell said early indications were that a number of major buildings were showing "signs of structural stress".

More military helicopters will begin flying evacuees from an earthquake-hit town in New Zealand's South Island, where almost 1000 people are still blocked off.

The town of Kaikoura, located northeast of Chirstchurch, remained cut off because of massive landslips.

"Questions need to be asked and that's going to happen", he told Radio New Zealand.

Police said one person died from the quake in Kaikoura and another in Mt. Lyford, a nearby ski resort.

Photos taken by the NZ Defence Force near Kaikoura show cracks in the earth and slips near quake epicentre.

In Wellington, where frequent aftershocks continued to be felt hours after the first quake, residents heading for higher ground caused gridlock on the roads to Mount Victoria, a hill with a lookout over the low-lying coastal city. Several other people suffered minor injuries in Kaikoura, police spokesman Rachel Purdom said.

Video taken from a helicopter near Kaikoura showed three cows stranded on an island of grass in a paddock that had been ripped apart in the quake.

Australian, Canadian and USA warships are heading to the New Zealand town of Kaikoura to help with evacuations after a series of powerful earthquakes.

The government is working to evacuate about 140 people out of Kaikoura, according to Prime Minister John Key.

New Zealand lies in the seismically active "Ring of Fire", a 40,000 km arc of volcanoes and oceanic trenches that partly encircles the Pacific Ocean. An quake in Christchurch five years ago destroyed thousands of homes and buildings and killed 185 people.