A road is now open to Kaikoura - at least for some vehicles - for the first time since the massive earthquake struck on Monday, wrecking homes and triggering massive landslips.
The inland route, State Highway 70 from Culverden, has only been cleared for military-style 4WD vehicles.
The road was closed by slips and damaged bridges and crews have been working from both ends since Monday morning.
Army trucks will now be able to deliver water and essential supplies through to the town, on the South Island's east coast.
"At this stage, it's hoped the route will be cleared by the weekend. NZDF [New Zealand Defence Force] is using all-terrain vehicles on the road and, once reopened, access will be controlled by the New Zealand Police," Acting Civil Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee said.
The earthquake, which hit near Hanmer Springs at a depth of 15km at 12.02am on Monday killing two people and causing widespread damage, has been upgraded from magnitude 7.5 to 7.8.
Kaikoura is home to about 2000 residents and was among the settlements worst-hit by the quake, with hundreds of tourists also stranded.
The NZDF has already evacuated about 600 people from the town, mostly by air to Christchurch.
The HMNZS Canterbury was expected to set sail to Lyttelton with hundreds of other evacuees on board tonight. It was expected to arrive overnight, depending on weather conditions.
"Evacuations will continue for as long as necessary and, as of tomorrow, several ships from other nations - including the USS Sampson - will arrive off the Kaikoura coast ready to be mobilised as required," Mr Brownlee said.
'It's a great sight'
Kaikoura Mayor Winston Gray said this morning it was a great relief to see the navy ships coming to help them.
"I'm up on the peninsula and I'm currently looking at the Wellington out on one side and the Canterbury looming large on the horizon on the other side.
"It's a great sight."
A helicopter from the Canterbury had flown in large bags of material, including two loads of lifejackets, to enable tourists to be taken out to the ship.
Civil Defence said this morning that 700 to 1000 people were still to be evacuated.
The navy vessels would be joined later by the frigate Te Kaha and tanker ship Endeavour.
American, Canadian and Australian ships were also joining the rescue and resupply operation.
American destroyer USS Sampson was going to be in Auckland today but a decision was made last night to send it to the South Island instead. The ship's two helicopters were expected to help with supplies and evacuations. Canada was sending the frigate Vancouver, and Australia the frigate Darwin.
Water supply to be boosted
The water supply had run out much earlier than expected in Kaikoura, and some homes were still without power.
Civil Defence director Sarah Stuart-Black said this morning 50 percent of the town had access to the water supply, and that should rise to 75 percent by mid-morning.
Ms Stuart-Black said there was still no operational sewerage system in Kaikoura.
"We were looking at what additional chemical toilets might be needed to be taken in to provide support."
The local council said it was working on a water pipe from Cheviot and people could expect clean water from there by this afternoon.
The NZDF also air-dropped 5000 litres of water into Kaikoura this evening.
5000 litres of water was air dropped into Kaikoura this evening by the Defence Force pic.twitter.com/1OyCB1nXs3— Maja Burry (@MajaBurry) November 16, 2016
Four large pallets containing thousands of bottles water were parachuted down into a paddock near the town by an Air Force C130 Hercules, which was too big to land there.
Increasing numbers of people were going to Kaikoura Hospital with anxiety related disorders, Canterbury Medical Officer of Health Alastair Humphrey said.
Door-to-door welfare checks were being carried out in Marlborough, Hurunui and Kaikoura.
Troops from Burnham arrived yesterday to help check on people. The 25 soldiers were going door-to-door in Kaikoura.
Evacuation helicopter flights, for both tourists and residents, were expected to continue for the next three days.
As the rescue effort continued, floods hit Wellington and Marlborough, while some streets in the capital were cordoned off due to building safety concerns.