This “unprecedented meteorological event”, according to the authorities, led to strong winds and heavy rainfall on the North Island during the night from Monday to Tuesday. “The damage is significant,” Prime Minister Chris Hipkins said at a news conference in Auckland.
“It was very scary.”
Homes were damaged by falling trees or invaded by mud and rubbish. Some residents were therefore completely isolated, with roads cut off after landslides or floods.
According to local media, people had to swim out of their homes to get to safety.
“Around midnight, we received an emergency message telling us to evacuate,” recalled a resident of the coastal community of Muriwai. “It was pitch black,” she told local TVNZ. “It was very scary.”
This cyclone caused wind gusts of up to 140 km/h, precipitation of up to 20 cm in 24 hours and waves of eleven meters. Chris Hipkins said it was “too early to say” how many people have been evacuated from their homes and are without electricity or phone reception.
“These are unprecedented bad weather conditions that are having a huge impact,” said Minister for Emergency Management Kieran McAnulty in the north of the country.
Following the Christchurch bombings in 2019 and the Covid outbreak in 2020, New Zealand has declared a state of emergency for only the third time.
“This is a major disaster (which poses a real threat to the lives of New Zealanders,” Kieran McAnulty warned, adding that a national emergency has been declared for seven days.
The cyclone grounded planes and airline Air New Zealand, saying travel was disrupted for around 35,000 of its international customers and 592 flights were cancelled.