Cyclone causes chaos in New Zealand – as country declares rare national emergency


A national state of emergency has been declared in New Zealand for only the third time ever after the country was battered by Cyclone Gabrielle.

There was flooding, power cuts, landslides and forced evacuations after intense rain overnight into Tuesday.

The country’s emergency minister called it a “significant disaster with a real threat to the lives of New Zealanders”.

Auckland, New Zealand‘s biggest city, is covered by the alert – as are the regions of Northland, Tairawhiti, Bay of Plenty, Waikato and Hawke’s Bay.

Cars dodge fallen trees on a road at Cook's Beach, east of Auckland. Pic: AP
Cars dodge fallen trees on a road at Cook’s Beach, east of Auckland. Pic: AP
Sand bags were laid in some exposed areas ahead of the cyclone's arrival. Pic: AP
Sand bags were laid in some exposed areas ahead of the cyclone’s arrival. Pic: AP

“It has been a big night for New Zealanders across the country, but particularly in the upper North Island,” said Prime Minister Chris Hipkins.

“A lot of families displaced, a lot of homes without power, extensive damage done across the country.”

He said there were no figures so far on the number of people displaced or whether anyone has been killed.

The military has been called up to help with evacuations and deliver supplies in the worst-affected parts of the North Island.

Some areas in the region are cut off due to damaged roads and river levels are continuing to rise.

A flooded road in Hawke’s Bay on the east coast of the North Island

The country’s national forecaster said at one weather station in Hawke’s Bay three times more rain fell on Monday night than is normal for the whole of February.

More rain and high wind is predicted – with the upper South Island possibly in the firing line – but the worst of the storm is believed to be over.

On Tuesday afternoon, Gabrielle was about 60 miles east of Auckland and expected to move parallel to the coast.

The city had been at a virtual standstill ahead of the storm’s arrival and people were asked to only make essential trips.

The cyclone hit just two weeks after another fierce storm caused severe flooding and killed four people in the city.

Air New Zealand scrapped 500 flights in the aftermath of the cyclone, including domestic routes to and from Auckland.

Around 10,000 customers were also affected by international cancellations – though some were still operating with potential diversions.

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