U.S. naval ship helps with New Zealand earthquake recovery

A U.S. naval ship carrying two helicopters is helping with humanitarian relief efforts in New Zealand after a strong earthquake shook the island nation.

The USS Sampson was diverted to the waters near Kaikoura to help with evacuations and provide much-needed supplies.

Kaikoura, a small tourist destination on New Zealand’s South Island that is famous for whale watching, was located near the earthquake’s epicenter. The town has been completely cut off from the rest of the island due to landslides and flooding.

New Zealand’s prime minister, John Key, said there were 1,200 tourists in Kaikoura — a town of about 3,800 — when the 7.5 magnitude earthquake struck.

The USS Sampson’s two helicopters will join New Zealand’s own evacuation and resupply forces to ferry people out and bring clean water and supplies to those who remain. A U.S. Navy patrol airplane, which was in the region, is also helping to assess the area.

The USS Sampson was already traveling to New Zealand to take part in the International Naval Review to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Royal New Zealand Navy. It will join ships from Australia, Japan, Canada and Singapore that were also diverted from the planned celebration to assist in humanitarian efforts.