New Zealand declares a national emergency

New Zealand’s prime minister says Cyclone Gabrielle, which has devastated much of the North Island, is a weather event not seen “in a generation”.

Chris Hipkins’ government has declared a state of emergency – only the third in New Zealand’s history.

About a third of the country’s five million inhabitants live in the affected areas.

Many people have been displaced and some have been forced to flee their homes after rivers overflowed their banks.

Others have been rescued from rooftops.

About a quarter of a million people are without power. Falling trees have destroyed homes and landslides have swept others away and blocked roads.

Damage from the storm has been greatest in coastal communities on the extreme north and east coasts of the North Island – with areas such as Hawke’s Bay, Coromandel and Northland worst affected.

Communication with a city in the region has been completely cut off after a river burst its banks.

Civil protection authorities in Hawke’s Bay said they could not cope with the extent of the damage. Australia and the UK have pledged to help.

A firefighter remains missing after being caught in a landslide in Muriwai, west of Auckland. A second firefighter involved was seriously injured, according to rescue services.

Marcelle Smith, whose family lives on a cliff in Parua Bay on the east coast of the North Island, told the BBC she fled inland with her two young children on Monday night.

Her husband stayed behind to secure their home. Some levees built had already washed away and were still battling wild weather on Tuesday.

“We are trying to do everything we can to protect what we have put our lives into. It is man against nature at the moment,” she told the BBC.



Local media reported that some residents of Hawke’s Bay had to swim through bedroom windows to escape when the water flooded their homes. People have been warned that they could be without power for weeks.

Aerial photos of flooded areas showed people stranded on rooftops awaiting rescue.

The magnitude of the damage includes uprooted trees, bent streetlights and poles, and row upon row of flooded homes.

The New Zealand Defense Force has released dramatic photos of officials rescuing a stranded sailor whose yacht was swept into the sea when the anchor cable snapped amid high winds.

The frigate HMNZS Te Mana rescued a sailor from a distressed catamaran during Cyclone Gabrielle.

Navy officials rescued a stranded sailor whose boat was swept into the sea

“The severity and damage we are seeing is something we haven’t seen in a generation,” Hipkins said Tuesday.

“We are still building a picture of the effects of the cyclone as it continues to unfold. But what we do know is that the impact is significant and widespread.”

He has pledged NZ$11.5 million (£6m; US$7.3m) to help victims of the disaster.

Emergency Management Minister Kieran McAnulty declared a national emergency on Tuesday morning, describing the storm as “unprecedented”.

The emergency order allows the government to streamline its response to the disaster. It has been applied to the regions of Northland, Auckland, Tairawhiti, Tararua, Bay of Plenty, Waikato and Hawke’s Bay.

New Zealand has declared a national emergency only twice before: during the start of the Covid-19 pandemic and after the 2011 Christchurch earthquake.

The government has attributed the magnitude of the disaster to climate change.

“The seriousness of it, of course, [is] compounded by the fact that our global temperatures have already risen by 1.1 degrees,” said Climate Change Secretary James Shaw.

“We must stop making excuses for inaction. We cannot bury our heads in the sand when the beach is flooded. We must act now.”

Cyclone Gabrielle has hit New Zealand just two weeks after unprecedented downpours and flooding in the same region, killing four people.

The MetService says conditions are expected to ease in the coming days and heavy rain warnings will be lifted for some parts of the country. But it has warned that wind could still cause further damage.

Leave a Comment