New Zealand declares emergency after Cyclone Gabrielle subsides

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) – The New Zealand government declared a state of emergency on Tuesday across the country’s North Island, which was hit by Cyclone Gabrielle.

The declaration allows the government to support six regions where local emergencies have already been declared and provide additional resources, Emergency Management Minister Kieran McAnulty said.

The country was hit by heavy overnight rains that forced evacuations and triggered widespread flooding, power outages and road closures.

“This is a significant disaster with a real threat to the lives of New Zealanders,” McAnulty told reporters in the capital Wellington.

The state of emergency applies to the country’s largest city, Auckland, as well as the regions of Northland, Tairawhiti, Bay of Plenty, Waikato and Hawke’s Bay.

A weather station in the Hawke’s Bay and Napier region recorded three times as much rain overnight as it normally does for the entire month of February, MetService meteorologist Lewis Ferris said.

“It’s going to be wet, soggy, devastation there,” Ferris told the Australian Broadcasting Corp.

“We’ve seen the worst of the storm now,” added Ferris. “We just have to get through today.”

New Zealand Prime Minister Chris Hipkins was briefed on the emergency response in Auckland, the city which two weeks ago was flooded by a record storm that killed four people.

Hipkins said the military was already on the ground in the worst-hit regions north of the North Island, helping with evacuations and keeping essential supplies moving.

“I want to acknowledge the situation that New Zealanders are waking up to this morning,” Hipkins told reporters. “Many homeless families. Many houses without power. Extensive damage caused across the country.”

“We’ll take a little time to understand exactly what happened and, in due course, help clean up when we get to that point,” added Hipkins.

Much of Auckland came to a halt on Monday as train services were cancelled, libraries and most schools were closed and authorities urged people to take only essential journeys.

Air New Zealand canceled all domestic flights to and from Auckland until Tuesday morning, as well as many international flights. Some international routes would continue to operate, airline officials said, although they may need to be diverted from Auckland. The carrier also canceled domestic flights to and from the cities of Hamilton, Tauranga and Taupo.

In all, Air New Zealand canceled more than 500 flights. More than 10,000 international customers were affected, the airline said, with thousands yet to be rebooked.

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