The New Zealand Defence Force has mobilised multiple assets including personnel and at least three of its aircraft to support the government’s response to the massive earthquake that hit North Canterbury just after midnight this morning.
At least two people were killed, several injured and one missing when the area was hit by a 7.5 magnitude earthquake, which was felt in Christchurch, Wellington and Marlborough but also as far away as Taranaki, Hamilton and Auckland.
A tsunami alert was quickly issued and, while some waves damaged harbour infrastructure, with one scheduled ferry forced to remain at sea, the tsunami warning has since been lifted.
Air Commodore Darryn Webb, Acting Commander Joint Forces New Zealand, said an NH90 medium utility helicopter [file photo] from the Royal New Zealand Air Force’s 3 Squadron took off from Ohakea at 5.30am to support the Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management.
Air Commodore Webb also said an RNZAF P-3K2 Orion surveillance aircraft from 5 Squadron left Whenuapai at 7.20am to survey main transport routes and towns from Picton to Christchurch.
“Another NH90 helicopter and other aircraft have been placed on standby for other tasks, including conducting an aerial survey of areas in the Kaikoura region which reportedly suffered the brunt of the earthquake.
“NZDF personnel from Burnham Military Camp and RNZAF Base Woodbourne have also been mobilised to support the Christchurch civil defence authorities.
“The Chief of Defence Force, Lieutenant General Tim Keating, has directed that we remain ready to respond should the situation require further support.”
The New Zealand Defence Force has sent a P-3K2 Orion surveillance aircraft and two NH90 medium utility helicopters to survey areas in North Canterbury that were rocked by a massive 7.5 earthquake early on Monday.
Air Commodore Darryn Webb, the Acting Commander Joint Forces New Zealand, said photos taken during the aerial surveys by Royal New Zealand Air Force aircraft showed massive rockfalls in several areas in the upper South Island.
“It is clear from the photos taken by our personnel that the major route from Christchurch to Kaikoura is impassable,” Air Commodore Webb said.
“So is the road from Kaikoura to Hanmer Springs and the one from Blenheim to Kaikoura.
“We are currently assisting the Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management in assessing the extent of the damage wrought by the earthquake, and we are ready to provide additional support as required.”
Air Commodore Webb said the Orion surveyed main transport routes and towns from Picton to Christchurch including inland routes.
A third NH90 helicopter and other aircraft have been placed on standby for other tasks, including transporting personnel and equipment required in the emergency response.
More than 100 NZDF personnel from Burnham Military Camp and RNZAF Base Woodbourne are also assisting Christchurch civil defence authorities.