Strong aftershocks have rocked New Zealand following a 7.8-magnitude earthquake that killed two people.

The South Island has seen hundreds of tremors, including a 6.3-magnitude quake, after the initial one struck after midnight on Monday.

The epicentre is northeast of Christchurch, near the town of Kaikoura which has been cut off by landslides.

There are believed to be up to 1,000 tourists stranded in the town.

Military helicopters and a navy ship are being sent to evacuate them and others from Kaikoura.

The aftershocks have left some communities without power and water, although authorities are slowly restoring supplies.

new zealand earthquake

Prime Minister John Key described the scene in Kaikoura as “utter devastation” while flying over the area. He said the damage bill will likely be in the “billions of dollars”, according to a statement seen by Reuters.

GeoNet, a government-funded project monitoring earthquakes, said the first earthquake was actually two related tremors, and that aftershocks would continue over the next few months.

As the aftershocks keep coming, Kiwis up and down the country are sharing the same emotions.

Exhaustion from a sleepless night, concern for those still cut off from communication, and sadness for the two people who lost their lives. But there is also real relief.

This earthquake was greater in magnitude than 2011’s Christchurch tremor, but it didn’t bring the same level of devastation.

The cost of rebuilding will be huge – major parts of New Zealand’s infrastructure have been twisted and snapped out of shape. READ MORE