Cyclone Gabriel: Floods forced New Zealanders to swim safely

  • Kelly Ng and Antoinette Radford
  • BBC news

video caption,

Aerial footage reveals extent of flooding at Hawke’s Bay in eastern New Zealand

Residents were forced to swim to safety from their flooded homes after Cyclone Gabriel hit northern New Zealand.

The government announced a national emergency on Tuesday due to the devastation of the storm – the third time in history.

Prime Minister Chris Hipkins said the disaster was New Zealand’s worst weather event in a century.

Officials said at least 225,000 people were without power on Tuesday.

Firefighters remain missing after being caught in a mudslide in Muriwai, west of Auckland. His second firefighter involved was seriously injured, rescuers said.

Storm damage is most extensive in the coastal regions of the far north and east coast of the North Island, with areas of Hawke’s Bay, Coromandel and Northland being the worst affected.

Almost a third of New Zealand’s 5.1 million people live in the affected areas.

Marcel Smith, whose family lives on cliffside property in Palua Bay on the east coast of the North Island, told the BBC that he fled inland to higher ground with his two young children on Monday night.

Her husband remained home to guard the house. Several dykes that had been put in place had already been washed away, battling Tuesday’s stormy weather.

“We are trying to do everything we can to protect what we have invested our lives in. At this time, it is man versus nature,” she told the BBC.

Local media reported that some residents of Hawke’s Bay had to swim out of their bedroom windows after their homes flooded. People in the area have been warned there could be power outages for weeks.

Aerial photos of the flooded area showed people stranded on rooftops waiting to be rescued.

Collapsed trees, crooked street lamps and utility poles, flooded rows of houses, etc., have caused enormous damage.

The New Zealand Defense Force has released a dramatic photo of officials rescuing a stranded sailor after strong winds snapped the anchor cable and swept the yacht out to sea. Authorities say it was located off the coast of Great Barrier Island after a nighttime search mission.

image source, New Zealand Defense Force

image caption,

Navy officials rescue stranded sailor whose boat was swept out to sea

In Auckland, officials said more than 100 people were evacuated to shelters overnight.

“The severity and the damage we are seeing has never been experienced in this generation,” Hipkins said Tuesday.

“As the cyclone continues to grow, we are still building a full picture of its impact. But what we do know is that its impact is significant and far-reaching. .”

He pledged NZ$11.5m (£6m, US$7.3m) to help those affected by the disaster.

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

Emergency orders allow governments to streamline their response to disasters. Applies to Northland, Auckland, Tairawhiti, Tararua, Bay of Plenty, Waikato and Hawke’s Bay regions.

New Zealand has so far declared a national emergency only twice, at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic and after the 2011 Christchurch earthquake.

The government attributed the scale of the disaster to climate change.

“Of course, the severity [is] It is made worse by the fact that global temperatures have already increased by 1.1 degrees,” said Climate Change Minister James Shaw.

“We need to stop making excuses for doing nothing. We can’t put our heads in the sand when the beaches are flooded. We must act now.”

Cyclone Gabriel hit New Zealand just two weeks after unprecedented heavy rains and flooding in the same region, killing four people.

MetService, the country’s weather agency, said Tuesday that Auckland has received about half of its annual rainfall in the first 45 days of 2023.

According to MetService, conditions are expected to clear up in the next few days and heavy rain warnings have been lifted for parts of the country. But he warns that winds can cause further damage.

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Watch: Huge waves and heavy rain as Cyclone Gabriel hits New Zealand

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