As Canterbury Civil Defence declared a region-wide state of emergency yesterday, people from around the South Island banded together to support those affected by Monday's 7.5 magnitude quake.

With no road access into Kaikoura, and limited cellphone coverage, residents and stranded tourists remained cut off from the rest of the country.

Power was back in some parts of the town but almost everywhere in Kaikoura was without running water or working sewerage.

More portable toilets would be set up in the town today .


Stricken tourists are set to be ferried out of the isolated town today when the HMNZS Canterbury and Wellington navy vessels arrive in Kaikoura carrying more supplies.

In Ward, residents and visitors are experiencing similar problems.

Roads in and out of the tiny North Canterbury town closed. Residents relied on food and watered delivered to welfare centre at the community hall.

Some homes had come off their foundations. Around 60 people needed shelter.

The Salvation Army offered to place 65 people for the night.

More than 600 aftershocks rattled the top of the South Island on Tuesday, at least six of which were over magnitude 5.0.

Four Air Force NH90 choppers ferried around 200 tourists out of Kaikoura but hundreds more remained trapped.

Red Cross welcomed evacuees with food, wifi and water when the helicopters touched down at Woodend School in Christchurch.

Francois Stofberg and his partner Annette Tacker, from Whangarei Heads, were among the 20 people who arrived on the first two flights, which landed at 10.30am.

The couple had planned to spend only one night in Kaikoura before Stofberg flew out to Antarctica later this week.

They were meant to leave Kaikoura on Monday, but their flight was delayed by poor weather, Stofberg said.

They were in a motel when the quake struck.

Tacker said the force of the quake was so powerful, stronger than any other earthquake she had been in, it jolted her awake.

Tourists, locals and volunteers line up for dinner at the Takahanga Marae in Kaikoura. Photo / Mike Scott
Tourists, locals and volunteers line up for dinner at the Takahanga Marae in Kaikoura. Photo / Mike Scott

Meanwhile in at an overgrown rugby field in Cheviot, North Canterbury, tourists and parents towing kids stumbled out of other choppers.

They were the second lot of evacuees from Goose Bay, a small tourist stop south of Kaikoura. The first group of dozens of holidaymakers flew out on Monday.

The emotional toll the earthquake had taken on them showed on some evacuees' faces. Some were tearful as the emerged from the choppers.

All had a story to tell about the terrifying power of the quake that roared through their camping spots.

"It was hell," Les Heaphy, of Christchurch, said.

Stephen Gallagher was holidaying with his kids when the quake struck.

"I thought that was it. The only thing that went through my mind was 'the kids'."

All said Goose Bay locals were the one bright light of the harrowing ordeal - handing out clothes and food and lighting bonfires to keep the tourists warm.

One such resident was Paul Keung. He took time off work and flew north at his own expense to deliver three uteloads of supplies, from gas canisters and cookers, to bottled water and a mobile generator.

Former All Blacks captain Richie McCaw also helped with the relief effort, piloting one of the choppers and then farewelling the tourists with a trademark thumbs up when it was back in the air.

The food included crayfish and other local delicasies. Photo / Mike Scott
The food included crayfish and other local delicasies. Photo / Mike Scott

When the choppers returned to Kaikoura to pick up more evacuees they dropped off much needed aid.

In total the Defence Force delivered 5000kg of supplies, including food, water, hygiene products and fuel.

Kaikoura mayor Winston Gray said in addition to the people flown out by the Defence Force, another 60-70 were rescued on private choppers, many organised by the Chinese consulate.

He estimated around 600-700 travellers would spend last night in Kaikoura - some at the marae and two churches that had opened their doors, others in campervans, tents or cars.

Spirits in the town were high considering what people had been through, Gray said.

"Everyone's holding together pretty well mostly. The marae are doing a fantastic job."

Around 700 people gathered in the town park at 1pm for a briefing from Civil Defence.

Water was the top priority. Civil Defence said the town had less than 24 hours' supply of drinking water.

The New World opened for the first time since the quake at 8pm on Tuesday.

Hungry and thirsty people queued for 90 minutes to buy groceries.

Specialist engineers flew in from Christchurch yesterday to assess the damage the quake left in its wake.

Most buildings on the town's main street were still standing, Gray said.

"If you drove through from out of town you wouldn't think an earthquake had come through."

But other properties further out in Lyle Creek were badly damaged.

- Additional reporting from Belinda Feek, Meg Sutherland and the Otago Daily Times.