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Deadly New Zealand flood crisis extends across north island

New Zealand’s deadly flood emergency has continued on Sunday after heavy rainfall hit the country’s north island, causing landslides, flash floods and knocking out roads.

Auckland, New Zealand’s largest city of 1.6 million people, remained under a state of emergency after it experienced its wettest ever day on Friday, sparking floods that killed three people. Another person remained missing, police said on Sunday.

Slips damaged homes in Tauranga, New Zealand after heavy rains.Credit:Stuff

The focus of the emergency has since moved south, with Waitomo District – located about 220 kilometres from Auckland – declaring a state of emergency.

Auckland mayor Wayne Brown came under criticism on Saturday for what critics say was an unnecessary delay in declaring the state of emergency, and a failure to visibly communicate with Aucklanders about the unfolding disaster. Prime Minister Chris Hipkins, less than a week in office, looked on awkwardly as Brown was involved in a testy exchange with the media at a press conference.

The nation’s weather forecaster, MetService, warned of more severe weather on Sunday and Monday for the north island, including in Auckland where severe thunderstorms were possible. Intense rainfall could also cause surface and flash flooding, added MetService.

Climate change is causing episodes of heavy rainfall to become more common and more intense, though the impact varies by region. Climate Change Minister James Shaw noted the link to climate change on Saturday when he tweeted his support for those affected by flooding.

On Sunday, police said they were assisting with traffic management and road closures in that region after heavy rainfall “caused numerous slips, flooding and damage to roads”.

New Zealand Prime Minister Chris Hipkins, right, talks to a resident affected by flooding in Auckland on Saturday.Credit:AP

In nearby Bay of Plenty there was also “widespread flooding”, police said, as well as a landslide that had knocked down a house and was threatening neighbouring properties.

“Police are asking those in areas experiencing severe weather to … not attempt to travel on the roads, many of which are currently undriveable,” police said.

In hard hit Auckland, flights resumed at Auckland Airport, which had closed domestic and international operations on Friday.

Air New Zealand said the airline’s international flights in and out of Auckland would resume from noon on Sunday (Auckland time).

On Saturday, Hipkins, flew by helicopter over Auckland before touring flood-hit homes. He described the flood impact in the city as “unprecedented” in recent memory.

People made more than 2000 calls for assistance and 70 evacuations around Auckland – the nation’s largest city – due to the inundation, the New Zealand Herald reported on Saturday.

On Friday, social media showed firefighters, police and defence force staff rescuing people from flooded homes using ropes and rescue boats.

City rainfall records were broken in the weather event, caused by warm air descending from the tropics, with Auckland Airport logging 249 millimetres in the 24 hours to 9am on Saturday, beating the 1985 high of 161.8 millimetres.

Reuters, with Stuff

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