New Zealand declares a national emergency as Cyclone Gabrielle wreaks havoc

By Lucy Craymer and Lincoln Feast

WELLINGTON (Reuters) – New Zealand on Tuesday declared a national state of emergency for only the third time in its history as Cyclone Gabrielle caused widespread flooding, landslides and huge sea waves, forcing evacuations and stranding people on rooftops.

Canceled flights stranded thousands of people while hundreds of thousands were left without power.

“The severity and scale of the damage we are seeing has not been seen in a generation,” Prime Minister Chris Hipkins said at a news conference on Tuesday.

Australia and Britain have pledged support, he added.

At 18:00 (0500 GMT), Gabrielle had moved south-east of Auckland near the east coast of the country’s North Island and was expected to continue moving south-east, roughly parallel to the coast. Weather warnings remained in place for much of the east coast of the North Island and upper South Island.

About 225,000 people were left without power while dozens of supermarkets closed and Hipkins urged New Zealanders not to panic buy.

Architect Lars von Minden, 50, lives in Muriwai, a seaside town on the coast west of Auckland.

“I’ve rarely seen anything like it,” he told Reuters by phone. “There’s three or four areas where there’s just these massive slips, some of them 300 meters (1,000 feet) wide, that have come down and destroyed homes and roads and everything.”

Kieran McAnulty, Minister for Emergency Management, said while New Zealand was now weathering the worst of the storm, more rain and high winds were to be expected.

The country is suffering from extensive flooding, landslides and damage to roads and infrastructure, he added.

Transmission companies across the country reported damage to substations and power grids.

Cyclone Gabrielle hits New Zealand


Authorities have evacuated beachfront settlements, urging even more people to flee their homes as rivers continue to swell and huge surf inundates beachfront properties.

Roads are closed, cell phone service is down and some cities are cut off. Residents in the hardest-hit areas are being urged to conserve water and food amid fears of shortages. Air New Zealand resumed some flights to and from Auckland, although many routes remained suspended.

Helicopter and boat crews rescued people trapped by rapidly rising flood waters in Hawke’s Bay, southeast of Auckland.

Hipkins said it was too early to say how many people had been displaced or injured. No deaths have been confirmed.

Media reported that one person was missing after a house in Hawke’s Bay slid down a hill, while fire and rescue services said a volunteer firefighter was still at a house that had been swept down a hill in a landslide.

Local media released photos and videos of people sitting on buildings surrounded by floodwaters, homes washed onto the bases of hills by landslides and streets submerged.

A New Zealand warship rescued a person from a yacht that had its distress signal on off the east coast this morning.

New Zealand declared a national emergency following an earthquake in 2011 and when the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020.

(Reporting by Lucy Craymer in Wellington and Lincoln Feast in Sydney; Writing by Alasdair Pal; Editing by Bradley Perrett)


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