New Zealand's stranded quake cows rescued

The magnitude-7.8 tremor, which struck just after midnight on Sunday, destroyed historic farm homesteads, sent glass and masonry toppling from high rises in the capital, Wellington, and cut road and rail links throughout the north-east of the South Island.

"At this stage, being as it's so close to the event happening, our main aim is to get the people out first, and then we'll be able to provide additional tasking if it's required - additional support", Commander Rooke said in a NZ Defence Force video.

"The four New Zealand NH90 helicopters have been evacuating people and bringing in supplies on each flight", Mr Brownlee says.

The tribe had fed them with crayfish, a delicacy for which the South Island town is famous.

New Zealand's Civil Defence declared a state of emergency for the Kaikoura region soon after the large aftershock.

In the wake of a powerful quake which hit New Zealand early Monday morning, three lucky survivors have been spotted on a patch of untouched ground after narrowly avoiding being swept away in a resulting landslide.

Mark Solomon, a leader of South Island indigenous Maori Ngai Tahu tribe, which has tourism and fisheries businesses around Kaikoura, said the local marae (Maori meeting place) had received 1000 people since Monday morning.

Brendan Nally, the regional commander for the New Zealand Fire Service, said engineers were completing an inspection of the downtown Wellington office building Tuesday when they found that a major vertical beam had failed above the fifth floor. Prime Minister John Key toured the affected areas, calling the situation "horrendous" and estimating it caused $2 billion in damage.

In the early hours of Monday morning, a huge seismic shake was felt across the country, followed by two more earthquakes today. The fix bill was likely to run into billions of dollars, he said.

Footage from New Zealand's Newshub shows two cows and a calf trapped near the coastal community of Kaikoura, where the 7.8-magnitude quake struck Monday.

Civil Defence estimated 80,000-100,000 landslides had been caused by the quakes.

"What they are seeing is aftershocks in two very distinct locations and that is what is indicating, OK, we've had two earthquakes here", Pascale said.

It was hoped an inland road to Kaikoura from the south could be reopened by the weekend, Brownlee said. An natural disaster in 2011 in Christchurch killed 185 people.

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