Wellington – Two people are dead and there is widespread damage to roads and infrastructure after a 7.5-magnitude earthquake struck New Zealand just after midnight on Monday.
Police said one casualty was reported at a collapsed property in Kaikoura, and a woman was thought to have died as the result of medical complications in rural Mt Lyford, north of Christchurch.
The quake struck just after midnight local time at a depth of 15 kilometres and was centred 100 kilometres out to sea off the east coast of the South Island, raising fears that it could generate a tsunami, Prime Minister John Key said Monday.
“We know the waves were as high as two metres. We also know that New Zealanders responded absolutely as they should, they didn’t go down to the beach,” he said.
The tsunami warning has since been downgraded with regional coastal warnings now in place.
The east coast of the South Island was worst affected by the quake, with a massive landslide taking out a coastal portion of state highway one near the whale-watching town of Kaikoura.
Several towns, including Kaikoura and Waiau in North Canterbury, close to the epicentre have been cut off by landslides and large cracks in the roads.
Interisland ferry services between the North and South Islands have been cancelled, while the terminals were assessed for damage, KiwiRail said.
The quake caused widespread damage as far north as the capital Wellington, where the city council was asking people not to travel into the CBD on Monday morning because of danger from broken glass.