First US Warship Changes Route to Help Earthquake Evacuation in New Zealand
The USS Sampson, a U.S. warship, diverted in a small coastal town in New Zealand on Wednesday to help in the evacuation of tourists and local residents from the 7.5 magnitude earthquake.
According to a report from The Washington Post, the USS Sampson was on its way to Auckland when it rerouted to Kaikoura to help the earthquake victims. On Monday, New Zealand was hit with a strong earthquake that resulted to a small tsunami, leaving highways damaged and train access cut off. Water supply and sewer systems were also destroyed, trapping both travelers and residents.
The coastal town of Kaikoura has a population of about 2,000 and is a popular tourist spot in New Zealand for whale watching and picturesque mountain views.
— Simon Makker (@SimonMakker) November 16, 2016
Pacom commander Navy Adm. Harry Harris said that the USS Sampson has two MH-60R Seahawk helicopters on board the warship to help in the evacuation efforts.
"American presence matters, as shown yet again today: Our prayers go out to our friends in New Zealand as they deal with another devastating earthquake on the South Island. But more than that, our help also goes out," Harris said in a news release by the U.S. Department of Defense.
On Wednesday, US President-elect Donald Trump also passed on his sympathies on the earthquake, which New Zealand's Prime Minister John Key described as "very warm and cordial."
The USS Sampson joins the previously deployed Navy P-3C Orion maritime reconnaissance aircraft to help New Zealand in the situation. Currently, two people have been reported to have died while thousands are stranded in Kaikoura.