New Zealand announces emergency owing to heavy flooding



Residents have been forced to swim to safety from flooded homes in New Zealand after Cyclone Gabrielle lashed the country’s north.

The country announced a national state of emergency on Tuesday after the storm’s devastation – just the third time in its history it’s done so.

The storm has caused extensive damage across the North Island – washing away roads and bridges and flooding suburbs. Officials said at least 225,000 people were without power on Tuesday. Nearly a third of New Zealand’s 5.1 million population live in the affected storm regions – which includes Auckland, the largest city.

The storm’s damage has been most extensive in coastal communities on the far north and east coast of the North Island – with spots like Hawkes Bay, Coromandel and Northland among the worst-hit. Marcelle Smith, whose family lives in a cliff front property in Parua Bay on the east coast of the North Island, told the BBC she had fled with her two young children inland on Monday night to higher ground.

Her husband had remained behind to set up protections for the home. Some embankments set up had already been washed away and they 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’s man versus nature at this point,” she told.

Local media reported that some residents in Hawkes Bay had to swim through bedroom windows to escape as waters flooded their homes. Residents in the area have been warned they could be without power for weeks. Aerial pictures of flooded regions also showed people stranded on rooftops waiting to be rescued. The vast scale of the damage includes uprooted trees, bent street lights and poles, and row after row of flooded homes.

Officials said two firefighters had also been caught in a landslide in Muriwai, west of Auckland. One was critically injured while another is missing, rescue agencies said. In Auckland, more than 100 people had also fled to set-up evacuation centres overnight, officials said.INP