Powerful quake takes out roads, strands residents in New Zealand

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Policemen and locals look at earthquake damage along State Highway One on New Zealand's South Island on Nov. 14. Photo by Anthony Phelps/Reuters

Policemen and locals look at earthquake damage along State Highway One on New Zealand’s South Island on Nov. 14. Photo by Anthony Phelps/Reuters

A major earthquake struck New Zealand’s South Island just after midnight on Monday. Authorities are working to deliver aid to those marooned by landslides.

The 7.8-magnitude quake struck between the tourist town of Kaikoura and Christchurch, which was still rebuilding from a 2011 earthquake that killed 185 people.

Prime Minister John Key, who surveyed the damage by helicopter, said at least two people were killed. Police said the deaths occurred in the coastal town of Kaikoura and the nearby ski resort of Mt. Lyford, the Associated Press reported.

New Zealand’s military planned to dispatch helicopters and a navy ship to help about 1,000 tourists and hundreds of residents in Kaikoura. Their water supplies and sewer systems were damaged, and their routes to leave were cut off by jagged cracks and landslides.

“From all directions, Kaikoura has essentially been isolated,” Air Commodore Darryn Webb, the Acting Commander of New Zealand’s Joint Forces, told the AP.

Landslides block State Highway One on the upper east coast of New Zealand's South Island following an earthquake. Photo by Sgt. Sam Shepherd/Courtesy of Royal New Zealand Defense Force/Handout via Reuters

Landslides block State Highway One on the upper east coast of New Zealand’s South Island following an earthquake. Photo by Sgt. Sam Shepherd/Courtesy of Royal New Zealand Defense Force/Handout via Reuters

He said the helicopters can evacuate 18 people at a time, and transport airplanes could drop food, water and other supplies to the residents if needed.

New Zealand lies between the Australia and Pacific plates, which are pushing against each other and creating stress that is released through seismic activity.

Scientists are looking at GPS marker readings to see how the shifting plates are reshaping New Zealand. So far, the movement has slimmed down the South Island and some of the North Island.

Map of earthquake epicenter courtesy of U.S. Geological Survey

Map of the 7.8-magnitude earthquake’s epicenter courtesy of U.S. Geological Survey

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