New Zealand quake
Representational ImageReuters

Strong aftershocks of up to 6.2-magnitude struck New Zealand on Monday, soon after a major earthquake measuring 7.8-magnitude wreaked havoc in country's South Island killing three people and destroying many homes.

The earthquake and aftershocks triggered hundreds of landslides across the country, cutting of certain towns completely from the rest of the country. Reports state that the tremors have caused a lot of destruction in certain areas. A tsunami warning was also issued soon after the earthquake as the waves hit the country two hours after the warning.

A rescue operation is currently underway to evacuate hundreds of people stranded in the towns.

The earthquake struck after midnight on Monday some 91 km northeast of Christchurch in the South Island. The epicentre near the town of Kaikoura has been completely cut off due to the landslides. 

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

"It's just utter devastation, I just don't know... that's months of work," New Zealand Prime Minister John Key told Civil Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee. Brownlee said that the prime minister made the statement after flying over the coastal town of Kaikoura. Key called the landslides "just horrendous" and said that the damage bill would amount to billions of dollars, according to Reuters.

The New Zealand Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management (MCDEM) issued a tsunami alert soon after the strong tremor saying, "The first wave may not be the largest. Tsunami activity will continue for several hours." The Ministry also released a list of things to do for people living on the eastern coast of the South Island, primary of which was: "Move inland or to higher ground immediately."

Christchurch also witnessed a devastating earthquake in the year 2011, which killed around 185 people and caused severe destruction.