New Zealand is planning to send in military helicopters and a navy ship to rescue about 1,000 tourists and hundreds of residents who remain stranded in the coastal town of Kaikoura after a powerful earthquake on Monday cut off train and vehicle access. The magnitude-7.8 quake struck the South Island just after midnight. It left two people dead and triggered a small tsunami. It also brought down rocks and mud that swept across highways and cracked apart roads. "From all directions, Kaikoura has essentially been isolated," Air Commodore Darryn Webb, the Acting Commander of New Zealand's Joint Forces, tells the AP. "There's a real imperative to support the town because it can't support itself."
Elsewhere, strong aftershocks continued to shake New Zealand on Monday, rattling the nerves of exhausted residents, though the country was largely spared the devastation it saw in 2011 when an earthquake struck the city of Christchurch and killed 185 people. Monday's quake caused damage in Wellington, the capital, and was also strongly felt in Christchurch. Residents said the shaking went on for about three minutes. Police say one person died in Kaikoura and another in Mt. Lyford, a nearby ski resort. Several other people suffered minor injuries in Kaikoura, police say. Prime Minister John Key toured the area and described the scene in the worst-hit areas "utter devastation." (Read more New Zealand earthquake stories.)