By DAVID HILL
Resident Ted Howard says the North Canterbury 7.8 earthquake at 12.02am on Monday morning raised the land and sea bed around South Bay by more than a metre, rendering boat ramps useless and the marine area completely inaccessible to boats at low tide.
He says the geology has changed so much, he doubts whether it will be possible for cruise ships to visit the town any time soon.
“The people are fine, but the whole geology has changed. What used to be 1.2 metres under water, the rocks and coral reefs are now completely visible.
“It’s going to be huge economic hit. It’s going to ripple through the community for years.
“We are going to need a lot of help from central government – we’ve got major earthworks to do. It’s going to be massive.”
Mr Howard says the local people are holding up “pretty well” and local Civil Defence has been “superb”.
“There’s a lot people who haven’t had experience of earthquakes before, who have been freaked by this. But it’s been a massive effort by the local Civil Defence to house and feed everyone.
“We have been lucky there’s only two fatalities. There’s a lot of houses which will probably never be lived in again and a lot people are sleeping in cars because they’re too afraid to be in buildings.”
Mr Howard says the raised land and sea bed meant the two metre waves from the tsunami had little impact and the local birdlife around the South Bay area had come through unscathed.
Up the coast at Ward Beach the sudden lift in the seabed left paua and lobsters trapped out of the water. Many died but others were saved by people putting them back into the sea.
Meanwhile in Kiakoura welfare centres have been provided at Takahanga Marae and St Joseph’s School hall, while Kaikoura’s St Paul’s Presbyterian Church has opened its doors to accommodate tourists.
Urgent travel is being provided by the military either by helicopter or ship to Christchurch, but Civil Defence has advised “residents should expect to look after themselves for the first 72 hours”.
Kaikoura Presbyterian minister Rev Alistair McNaughton posted on Facebook on Tuesday: “church full with stranded tourists – limited food, but was able to feed everyone breakfast”.
He described the scene as being like a “movie” with helicopters, tents and “no road access for days”. “But we will be ok, tourists will be ok at St Paul’s until the calvary arrive”.