(CNN)After being rocked by a deadly 7.8-magnitude earthquake, a wave of powerful aftershocks, thousands are now stranded in a New Zealand town near the quake’s epicenter.
A local state of emergency has been declared for the region of Canterbury, which is home to the areas hardest hit by the quake.
Helicopters are being sent to airlift trapped tourists and locals from cut-off communities in the Hurunui and Kaikoura districts, according to the New Zealand Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management.
A pair of ships, the HMNZS Canterbury and HMNZS Wellington, have also been sent to waters off the coast of Canterbury to assist.
Aftershocks have rattled the region during rescue efforts. They’re are expected to continue following the initial quake, which killed two people after it struck early Monday local time, New Zealand authorities said.
“We can say one thing with certainty: there will be more earthquakes to come in this area,” said GeoNet, New Zealand’s official source of geological hazard information.
Kaikoura, which is near the epicenter of the quake, is now cut off from the rest of the country.
The town, known for its prime whale watching and scenic vistas, is about a two and a half hour drive north of Christchurch.
The government is working to evacuate about 140 people out of Kaikoura, according to Prime Minister John Key.
He said the U.S. Navy had volunteered its help to ferry people out aboard two helicopters on the USS Sampson, which is in the area. Key said he missed a call with US President-elect Donald Trump during the hectic aftermath of the quake.
Chinese state media said it sent helicopters in to evacuate Chinese tourists in the city.