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Jolts of magnitudes 5.8 and 5.2 centred about 15km east of Seddon, north-east of Kaikoura, were strongly felt throughout the region yesterday, bringing to more than 1,000 the number of aftershocks since the big 7.5 quake in the early hours of Monday morning.

Two cows and a calf stranded on a grassy hilltop pushed up by an natural disaster, which had the internet rooting for them after being filmed from a helicopter, have been rescued.

"The priority today is the airlift operation", Air Commander Darryn Webb, acting commander of New Zealand joint forces, said. Several hundred people were airlifted out Tuesday as strong aftershocks continue to shake the region. The Sunday night quake shook the life of New Zealanders - especially as it came as a reminder of the damage caused to Christchurch by a 2011 temblor.

The leader of the South Island's indigenous Maori Ngai Tahu tribe said 1,000 people had gathered at the local marae (Maori meeting place) after the quake, with many sleeping in the communal hall or in vehicles outside.

Warships from Australia, Canada and the United States, in the country for the Royal New Zealand Navy's 75th anniversary, had arrived in Kaikoura to assist with the recovery.

It was not immediately clear who owned the cattle or what was being done to help them.

"The newspaper report added: 'Although located only 80km south-west of Kaikoura - where a massive relief operation is under way - people in Waiau feel they have been left to fend for themselves'".

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"They've set up to feed people, house people, they've got all the facilities they need", she said. "So the building is at significant risk of collapse".

A further three New Zealand warships are also involved and Wellington has accepted unspecified aid from Japan and Singapore.

"There are some sites that are really not suitable for certain types of structures", Paul Campbell, the president of the New Zealand Structural Engineering Society, told Radio New Zealand.

Wellington Mayor Justin Lester said the vacant building appeared to have suffered structural damage when the land it was on subsided in the quake.

Experts said the relatively low death toll was because the quake was centred on a sparsely populated area and hit at night, when people were in their homes.

China is New Zealand's second largest tourist market, with more than 300,000 Chinese nationals visiting the country in the a year ago. Christchurch, the largest city on New Zealand's lovely South Island, is still recovering from the 6.3 quake in 2011 that killed 185 people.

Most of the impact from the Christchurch quake was due to damage to tourism infrastructure such as accommodation and other facilities, Leung told Reuters.