New Zealand declares national emergency over cyclone

New Zealand declared a national emergency on Tuesday as Cyclone Gabrielle wreaked havoc across the country’s North Island.

The emergency — only the third in New Zealand’s history — comes as the extreme weather pattern causes flooding, landslides and ocean swells.

Lives under threat

Authorities have conducted evacuations across the island amid power outages and damage to properties. The flooding has cut off access to several towns.

“This is an unprecedented weather event that is having major impacts across much of the North Island,” Minister for Emergency Management Kieran McAnulty said. “This is a significant disaster with a real threat to the lives of New Zealanders.”

Gabrielle expected to head on to South Island

The cyclone is centered around 100 kilometres (60 miles) east of the city of Auckland and is expected to move east-southeast down the coast, possibly bringing its severe weather to the South Island.

Authorities have asked people who live near the coast to leave their homes amid fears of swelling rivers and rising sea tides.

Many roads have been closed and mobile phone services are down in across parts of the island.

New Zealand previously declared a national emergency on only two occasions. First after the 2011 earthquakes that struck Christchurch. And the second during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The declaration gives the government emergency powers to better manage and control the crisis.

Fears mount over missing firefighter

No deaths have been reported, but Prime Minister Chris Hipkins said it was too early to tell how many people had been injured or displaced.

“It has been a big night for New Zealanders across the country, but particularly in the upper North Island … a lot of families displaced, a lot of homes without power, extensive damage done across the country,” he told reporters.

Particular attention was being given to the case of a volunteer firefighter who went missing after a house collapsed near Auckland on Monday night.

Authorities said that another firefighter had been rescued already, but search efforts had to be called off amid safety concerns.

“One was rescued early this morning and is in a critical condition in hospital. The search for our second firefighter was suspended in the early hours of the morning due to the instability of the land,” Fire and Emergency chief Kerry Gregory said.

ab/jsi (dpa, Reuters)

Author: editor

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