New Zealand declares state of emergency as cyclone Gita hits South Island
Heavy rains brought floods to the southern city of Christchurch but the cyclone has not yet hit the island nation in full force.
Cyclone Gita, now downgraded to a storm, has not yet hit the capital Wellington. ()
New Zealand’s national carrier on Tuesday cancelled all flights in and out of the capital, Wellington, and the southern city of Christchurch declared a state of emergency as the remnants of tropical cyclone Gita pummelled the country.
Even before the storm hit in full force, heavy rains in the centre of New Zealand brought floods in Christchurch, prompting a warning from Mayor Lianne Dalziel.
“The full impact of the storm will be felt overnight and tomorrow morning,” she said, urging residents of low-lying areas to evacuate. “We are expecting homes to be flooded.”
— Chris Wilson (@crwilson_84) February 20, 2018
Air New Zealand said all flights to the capital would be grounded from 2:45pm local time (0145 GMT) as weather authorities issued warnings of severe weather and heavy rain and gusts of up to 150 kilometres per hour (93 mph).
Stuff news site reported that Wellington has already experienced power cuts to almost 100 homes while the coastal town of Kaikoura on the South Island has almost been isolated as heavy rain and winds have closed roads and highways.
⚠️ Cyclone Gita update: Weather conditions are forecast to deteriorate from midday. We are anticipating major disruptions across the lower North Island and South Island this afternoon. Keep updated 👉 https://t.co/WJhnWODV7r
— Air New Zealand✈️ (@FlyAirNZ) February 19, 2018
The nzherald reported that three South Island areas – Christchurch, Buller and Grey District – have declared a state of emergency. Transport has been disrupted while thousands remained without power in New Plymouth and South Taranaki.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said troops had fanned out to areas likely to be the hardest hit and the national Civil Defence office in Wellington was on standby to help.
“My message still to people is please look out for your local warnings and expect disruption to travel and please just be careful,” she told reporters at parliament.
The Meteorological Service of New Zealand has issued a severe weather watch as the ex-cyclone nears.
A massive 255.5mm of rain has been recorded about the Kaikoura ranges from 2am this morning – and the rain gauges keep on ticking over for those south of Kapiti. Rain is forecast to ease or clear for everyone by midday Wednesday. Keep updated at https://t.co/hnwmGxU1gR ^AC pic.twitter.com/b6xWXtSlDH
— MetService (@MetService) February 20, 2018
— WeatherWatch.co.nz (@WeatherWatchNZ) February 20, 2018