New Zealand plans final rescues soon after a cyclone kills at least 4
Updated February 15, 2023 at 3:58 AM ET
WELLINGTON, New Zealand — New Zealand authorities expect to make the final rescues Wednesday after a cyclone brought extensive flooding and landslides that claimed at least four lives.
Cyclone Gabrielle struck the country's north on Monday and has brought more destruction to this nation of 5 million than any weather event in decades.
Police said at least four people had been confirmed killed by the storm, including a child caught in rising water on Tuesday at Eskdale on Hawke's Bay. All four fatalities occurred near the same North Island east coast bay.
The body of a volunteer firefighter was retrieved on Wednesday from a landslide that destroyed a flooded house near Auckland, a police statement said. Another firefighter was critically injured by the same landslide on Monday night.
A woman was also killed by a landslide at Putorino and a body was found on a shore at Napier on Tuesday, police said.
Police said 1,442 people had been reported uncontactable in the North Island by Wednesday afternoon. The large number could be explained by widespread disruptions to telecommunications and power.
Around 144,000 properties on the North Island were without power on Wednesday, down from 225,000 on Tuesday, The New Zealand Herald reported.
A weather station in the Hawke's Bay and Napier region recorded three times more rain over Monday night than usually falls for the entire month of February, authorities said.
More than 300 people were rescued Tuesday from that same flooded bay area, including 60 stranded on a single roof, Emergency Management Minister Kieran McAnulty said. Helicopters would help make the final 25 rescues of individuals and family groups on Wednesday.
"Our emergency services are still carrying out rescues and land searches in a number of places," McAnulty told reporters.
British King Charles III's sister Princess Anne visited New Zealand's disaster management headquarters in the capital, Wellington, on Wednesday and praised the nation's response. Her visit to New Zealand was scheduled before the cyclone struck.
"My thoughts are with all New Zealanders whose homes or livelihoods have been affected by Cyclone Gabrielle," she said in a statement.
"I admire the courage of the people of Aotearoa during this alarming and difficult time," she said, using the country's Māori-language name.
"You should all be proud of the resilience, strength and care for your communities you are showing in the face of adversity," she added.
Around 9,000 people have been forced from their homes since Monday, with several communities isolated by floodwaters and landslides, he said.
"Everyone knows we have a long path ahead of us as we deal with extensive damage to homes, businesses, roads and bridges and other fundamental parts of our infrastructure," McAnulty said. "This is a significant disaster and it is going to take many weeks for those areas most affected to recover," he added.
Auckland was swamped two weeks ago by a record-breaking storm that also killed four people.
A national emergency was declared Tuesday, enabling the government to support affected regions and provide additional resources. It is only the third national emergency ever declared.
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