CBS News Logo New Zealand military to rescue tourists stranded by huge quake

WELLINGTON, New Zealand -- 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. Home to about 2,000 residents, Kaikoura is a popular destination for travelers taking part in whale-watching expeditions or wanting a stopover with mountain views. But the quake knocked out water supplies and sewerage systems and left people with no easy way out. “From all directions, Kaikoura has essentially been isolated,” Air Commodore Darryn Webb, the Acting Commander of New Zealand’s Joint Forces, told The Associated Press. “There’s a real imperative to support the town because it can’t support itself.” Webb said the military planned to begin using four NH90 helicopters on Tuesday that could each transport about 18 people out of the town at a time. He said a ship was also leaving Auckland on Monday night that could potentially pick up hundreds of people if weather conditions allowed. “We’re going to get as many people and belongings out as quickly as we can,” Webb said. He said the weather forecast wasn’t looking great and the operation could take several days. He said that if needed, a C-130 military transport plane could drop fuel, water, food and other supplies to the town. Elsewhere, strong aftershocks continued to shake New Zealand on Monday, rattling the nerves of exhausted residents. The country was largely spared the devastation it saw in 2011 when an earthquake struck the city of Christchurch and killed 185 people. That quake was one of New Zealand’s worst disasters, causing an estimated $25 billion Continue Reading

A trip to ‘Lord of the Rings’ and ‘The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey’ locations in New Zealand is like a visit to Middle Earth itself

The Misty Mountains are real. So are the Eregion Hills, Trollshaw Forest and Hobbit-holes. I’ve seen them. Or at least I’ve seen their stand-ins in New Zealand, the tiny Pacific island nation that played Middle Earth in Peter Jackson’s blockbuster adaptations of J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings.” It’s not hard to understand why the director chose his homeland to film “The Fellowship of the Ring” (2001), “The Two Towers” (2002) and “The Return of the King” (2003) — or why he returned for “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey,” which opens in New York on Friday. RELATED: PETER JACKSON AND THE CAST ON THE MAKING OF 'THE HOBBIT' For one thing, both Jackson and his production company are based in Wellington, New Zealand’s capital. But just outside its cities, the country offers mind-blowing scenery, from snow-capped peaks to lush valleys to roaring rivers. New Zealand provided more than 150 locations for Jackson’s films. Luckily, many of them are within reach for “Lord of the Rings” fans — or any intrepid traveler who braves the 18-hour trek from New York to Auckland via Los Angeles.   Ian Brodie One the Hobbit homes on a 'Lord of the Rings' movie tour What’s been called Tolkien tourism has exploded since the first film’s release. In every city, you’ll find tour companies, guides, street signs, even license plates with connections to Middle Earth. And you can’t swing an elf without hitting a site from the films. Full disclosure: I’d characterize myself as a “Rings” admirer rather than devotee. But getting close to film locations — and learning more about the wizardry behind them — has renewed my wonder for Jackson’s onscreen world. It’s also made me salivate for “The Hobbit,” the first film in another planned trilogy. Continue Reading

Loved ones gather at beach to salute Adam Strange, man killed by shark at Muriwai Beach in New Zealand

WELLINGTON, New Zealand — About 150 friends and family of a man killed in a shark attack wrote messages to him in the sand Thursday and stepped into the water at a New Zealand beach to say goodbye. Adam Strange, 46, was an award-winning television and short film director and the father of a 2-year-old girl. He was training for an endurance swim near popular Muriwai Beach on Wednesday when he was attacked by the shark that was possibly 14 feet (4 meters) long. Surf lifesavers say they are convinced it was a great white shark. Police attempting to save Strange raced out in inflatable boats and fired gunshots at the enormous predator, which they say rolled away and disappeared. Police were able to recover Strange's body, and lifeguards believe the shark is dead. Muriwai will remain closed for swimming until Saturday after the fatal attack, one of only about a dozen in New Zealand in the past 180 years. Friend Adam Stevens said the Thursday beach service was run by indigenous Maori who removed the "tapu" or spiritual restriction at the beach. He said it was a "perfect tribute" to a man who spent much of his time swimming and surfing. "He was a very robust, big, barrel-chested surfer," Stevens said. "He was basically completely obsessed with the ocean, with paddle boards and body surfing, everything. His garage was like a museum of surf craft." According to Police Inspector Shawn Rutene, Strange was about 200 meters (650 feet) from the shore when he was attacked by a shark that police estimated was up to four meters (14 feet) long. Stevens said his friend had planned to swim about 1 ½ kilometers (one mile) Wednesday as he tested new goggles and trained for an annual endurance swim from Auckland to Rangitoto Island. The 4.5-kilometer (2.8-mile) swim takes place on Sunday. Pio Mose, who was fishing at the beach Wednesday, told the New Zealand Herald newspaper he saw Strange struggle against the huge shark. Mose Continue Reading

Mike Hopkins, two-time Academy Award winner and sound editor on ‘The Lord of the Rings’ trilogy, dies in rafting accident in New Zealand

Mike Hopkins, the Academy Award-winning sound editor for the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, drowned Sunday after his inflatable raft was slammed by a flash flood on a river in his native New Zealand. He was 53. Hopkins had been boating on the Waiohine River near his Greytown home with his wife and a friend when heavy rain swelled the waterway in just minutes. Hopkins was ejected from from the raft while his wife, Nicci, and the unidentified third passenger managed to cling to the torn craft, a Wairarapa police spokesperson told Wellington's Dominion-Post. Nicci Hopkins was found hanging on to an outcropping two hours later by farmer Bruce Slater and his son, Andrew, after they went out in their jetboat despite police warnings about the severe weather. PHOTOS: STARS WHO LEFT US TOO SOON IN 2012 The Hopkins’ friend was also saved. “If they'd been half an hour earlier, they would have made it,” Slater told the Wairarapa Times Age. “They were just in the wrong place at the wrong time." Slater said the three had proper gear, including “safety equipment, wetsuits, life jackets and everything.” Hopkins had bought a home in Greytown, a small town on the North Island, to get away from the bustle of Hollywood and even Wellington, the center of his country's movie industry, film director and frequent collaborator Geoff Murphy told New Zealand's Fairfax news agency. Hopkins had been a fixture in the movie business for decades. He won two Oscars, along with sound editing partner Ethan Van der Ryn, for 2003's “The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers" and 2006's "King Kong." The pair were also were nominated for 2007's “Transformers.” Hopkins had also worked on the Johnny Depp Depression-era crime drama “Public Enemies,” the Tom Cruise film “Valkyrie,” and the animated “Kung Fu Panda.” His early work includes 1978’s “Superman.” As Continue Reading

Top shore tours for cruisers in New Zealand, Australia

Planning a cruise around Australia or New Zealand for 2013? It wasn't long ago that the number of shore tours available to cruisers in ports such as Melbourne, Australia, and Dunedin, New Zealand, was limited. But the boom in cruising in the region is sparking a surge in new options. MORE: Australia, New Zealand cruises make a splash DOWN UNDER: Region emerges as 'competitive' destinationAmong top offerings in some of Australia and New Zealand's most popular ports:-- Sydney, Australia. Day tours arranged by cruise ships (such as Royal Caribbean's $99-a-person "Sydney Sights, Opera House & Bondi Beach") often pair visits to the city's famed Opera House and other landmarks with a stop at one of its world-renown beaches. But cruisers also can piece together their own tour mixing attractions and a beach by signing up for the city's hop-on, hop-off tour buses ($27 per adult; or unrelated hop-on, hop-off tour boats ($42, Another popular if pricey outing is a climb up the Sydney Harbour Bridge ($209-$335 per adult;, which like the Opera House is located within walking distance of the Overseas Passenger Terminal where many ships dock.-- Auckland, New Zealand. New Zealand's largest city has a bridge climb of its own on the Auckland Harbour Bridge ($101 per adult,, and the adventurous also can bungee jump from the bridge for a slightly higher cost. But many visitors head out of town to tour the vineyards near the city or the Waitakere Range and black sand beaches to the West. Local tour operator Bush and Beach offers a half-day "Wilderness Experience" that includes a walk to a waterfall in Waitakere Ranges Regional Park and a beach stop ($118,; the company's Auckland area wine tours start at $177. Bush and Beach also offers half-day city tours for $63 per person.-- Tauranga, New Zealand. While you can spend the day in this cozy beach-side town, a more activity-packed option Continue Reading

Director James Cameron to move to New Zealand

Hollywood director James Cameron is planning to move onto a New Zealand farm.Cameron has successfully applied to buy 2,636 acres of farmland in New Zealand. In an application filed with the New Zealand Overseas Investment Office, Cameron says he and his family "intend to reside indefinitely in New Zealand and are acquiring the property to reside on and operate as a working farm."Cameron, a Canadian, directed two of Hollywood's most successful films, "Titanic" and "Avatar." He could not be immediately contacted by The Associated Press Thursday, but it's believed he will move to New Zealand this year to film the sequel to "Avatar."The rural properties are about a 90-minute drive from Wellington, home to Weta Digital, which won an Oscar for its visual effects work on the first "Avatar" movie. PHOTOS: Iconic movie and TV homes Join the Conversation: Continue Reading

Heartbreak for N.J. father after daughter killed in tragic New Zealand minivan crash

The father of a Brooklyn beauty killed in a tragic minivan crash in New Zealand on the eve of Mother’s Day spoke of his anguish Sunday. “If there was anyway to bring her back, I would do everything in my power,” ashen-faced Anatoly Lekhno said at the family home. “No words can . . . I’m sorry, I don’t want to talk about it,” he said as a tear ran down his face. Daniela Lekhno, 20, who grew up in Seagate before moving to Manalapan, on the Jersey Shore, was part of a group of 26 Boston University students traveling in three minivans to locations from the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy in New Zealand’s north island Saturday. As their convoy neared the entrance to the Tongariro Crossing, where they planned to hike across a volcanic crater, the driver drifted into the gravel shoulder and fatally overcorrected, reports say. Two others male students on the study abroad program — Roch Jauberty and Austin Brashears — were also killed as the vehicle spun out of control and flipped three times. Lekhno’s family drove away from their home Sunday night after being consoled by a neighbor who hugged the student’s mother, Susanna. Anatoly Lekhno said his daughter would be buried after her body is returned to the United States this week. [email protected] Join the Conversation: Continue Reading

New Zealand official warns mine rescue is not the same as Chile’s

Authorities in New Zealand are trying to figure out their next step in the race to rescue the 29 men trapped in a New Zealand coal mine after air tests of the mine suggested something still could be burning underground. While there has been no sign the missing miners are still alive, Gary Knowles, the police chief in charge of the effort, said a rescue operation was still in effect. The miners haven't been heard from since the blast occurred at the mine on Friday afternoon. According to the BBC, the explosion was discovered when an electrician went into the mine to investigate a power failure and found the driver of a loader who had been blown off of his machine. He then raised the alarm and two men walked out of the mine with minor injuries, while 29 remained missing more than a mile underground. The rescue operation has drawn comparisons to the miracle at a Chilean mine last month when 33 miners were rescued after 69 days underground. But authorities in New Zealand caution against reading too much into the similarities. "This is not Chile," Knowles told CNN. "It's a whole different type of mine." Officials said earlier Saturday that they planned on drilling another 6-inch hole to test gas levels in a different part of the mine, which could be used or enlarged for other purposes later. Drilling that hole could take up to 20 hours. Fresh air is also being pumped into the mine as well wishes for the miners' families have poured in, including from the country's beloved rugby team known as the All Blacks. "The players and management share the concerns of all New Zealanders and even though we are thousands of miles from home our thoughts and hearts go out to the miners and their families," team captain Richie McCaw said in a statement. [email protected] Join the Conversation: Continue Reading

Swine flu spreads to Middle East, South Pacific; New Zealand reports 11 confirmed cases, Israel, one

MEXICO CITY — Swine flu spread to the Middle East and the South Pacific on Tuesday, as New Zealand reported 11 confirmed cases and Israel said it had one. World health officials raced to contain the outbreak, raising a global alert level as more deaths were reported in Mexico. Swine flu has already spread to seven countries and appears to be jumping borders via airplane flights. Those infected in New Zealand are a group of students and teachers who returned recently from a trip to Mexico, where the virus is suspected to have infected nearly 2,000 people and caused more than 150 deaths. Fifty cases — none fatal — have been confirmed in the United States. Six cases have been confirmed in Canada, two in Spain and two in Scotland. European Union officials reported Tuesday flu cases were also being probed in Denmark, Sweden, Greece, Czech Republic, Germany, Italy and Ireland, in addition to Spain and Britain. "At this time, containment is not a feasible option," said Keiji Fukuda, assistant director-general of the World Health Organization, which raised its alert level on Monday. New Zealand Health Minister Tony Ryall reported 11 confirmed cases and said another 43 people were suspected of having the virus. All have been voluntarily quarrantined, along with their families. Israeli Health Ministry laboratory tests confirmed swine flu in a 26-year-old patient who recently returned from Mexico in the Israeli city of Netanya, north of Tel Aviv, according to Laniado Hospital's medical director. In Europe, Spain reported a second confirmed case and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said the country's two swine flu patients were improving. "Both patients are in better health and ... one may leave the hospital today," Brown said on a visit to Poland. Brown urged people to consult a doctor if they have health concerns but stressed that Britain is "among the best prepared countries in the world" to fight the spread of the disease. Spanish Continue Reading

Prince Harry rubs noses with Maori warrior to kick off New Zealand visit

WELLINGTON, New Zealand — Britain's Prince Harry arrived in New Zealand Saturday for a weeklong visit that will take him to one of the country's most remote islands. Harry was greeted by Prime Minister John Key and other dignitaries when his plane landed in Wellington on a sunny and calm fall day. Wearing a blue suit, Harry stopped to say hello to cheering fans as he began his first visit to the South Pacific commonwealth nation of 4.5 million. From the airport he traveled to Government House for an official welcome. He pressed noses with an indigenous Maori man in a traditional greeting called a "hongi" and met with military representatives. He also talked with schoolchildren, feigning surprise when some told him they didn't play rugby. "I thought you would be forced to play rugby," he said. "That's why you have such a good rugby team isn't it?" Harry is scheduled to watch a rugby game later Saturday between Wellington's Hurricanes and South Africa's Durban-based Sharks. The prince also talked about soccer, telling the children that most royal family members were Arsenal fans. One young girl gave Harry a card for his niece, Princess Charlotte, which the prince popped in his suit pocket and promised to pass along. Charlotte was born last week, bumping Harry down a notch to fifth in line to the throne. Harry plans to visit through May 16. One of his scheduled stops is at Stewart Island, population 378. From there he will take a boat to the even more remote Ulva Island, a predator-free sanctuary for native birdlife that is home to rare species including the Stewart Island brown kiwi. Harry is also scheduled to visit Christchurch, Whanganui, Linton and Auckland. The prince arrived from Australia after a monthlong embedment there with the Australian army. He is the grandson of Britain's monarch, Queen Elizabeth II. Continue Reading