Cyclone Gabriel: Thousands still unreachable after New Zealand storm

  • Alexandra Foucher
  • BBC news

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Damage from Cyclone Gabriel can be seen in Hawke’s Bay, one of the hardest-hit areas.

New Zealand’s prime minister expects eight people to die and more to die after storms that have disrupted hundreds of communities.

More than 4,500 people are still unreachable after Cyclone Gabriel struck on Monday, causing severe flooding and landslides across the North Island.

Many cities and towns have neither electricity nor clean drinking water.

Prime Minister Chris Hipkins said: “This is arguably the biggest natural disaster of the century.

The storm damaged hundreds of mobile phone masts, and Hipkins said many of the thousands of unreachable people are likely to be found alive and well. He warned that people needed to “arm themselves” for more deaths.

It is also estimated that around 10,000 people have been displaced.

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Cyclone Gabriel: Trapped Workers Use Refrigerators and Mattresses to Avoid Flooding

One of the confirmed fatalities was a 2-year-old girl whose family watched her washed away in the floodwaters.

Ella Louise Collins, her husband and two children were trapped in a one-story house in Hawke’s Bay, one of the hardest-hit areas.

“The water was about 10 cm (4 inches) from the ceiling of our house and rose very quickly and violently,” she wrote in a Facebook post on Thursday, quoted by the AFP news agency.

They tried to reach the neighbor’s roof for safety, but were stopped by what Ms. Collins called “a sudden torrent that nearly drowned us all.”

The water swept away my drowned daughter, Ivy.

One woman, Rachel Greene, sent a touching tribute to her mother, Marie, whose body was found in a hollow on the roof of her cottage by her landlord’s son after the cyclone.

It took Rachel four days to find out what happened.

Cyclone Gabriel is estimated to have affected at least a third of New Zealand’s 5 million population.

Storm damage was most extensive in the coastal areas of the far north and east coast of the North Island, with areas such as Hawke’s Bay, Coromandel and Northland being the worst hit.

The situation in Hawke’s Bay, a popular tourist destination with several remote towns, is of particular concern to authorities.

About 62,000 households across the country were still without power on Friday.

New Zealand announced a national emergency on Tuesday. This allows you to streamline your response to disasters.

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

New Zealand’s climate minister attributes the scale of the disaster to climate change.

Cyclone Gabriel hit New Zealand’s North Island just two weeks after record heavy rains and flooding hit the same region. In these floods he died four people.

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