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Menopausal Mother Nature

News about Climate Change and our Planet

Flooding hampers rescue efforts as North Island residents told power could be out for weeks – as it happened

Flooding hampers rescue efforts as North Island residents told power could be out for weeks – as it happened

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You can also read ourfull report by our New Zealand correspondent, Tess McClure.

Before we close down our live blog, here is a quick summary of today’s developments.

Thank you for reading today, and take care out there.

  • As heavy wind and rain from ex-Cyclone Gabrielle battered the North Island overnight, residents awoke on Tuesday to roads eaten away by landslips, collapsed homes buried in mud, people trapped on rooftops, fallen trees and power lines, flood waters blocking roads and communities stranded.

  • The New Zealand government declared a national state of emergency – only the third time in the country’s history (the previous occasions were in response to the 2019 Christchurch attacks and the Covid-19 pandemic).

  • The areas worst-affected by the storm appear to be around the east coast and far north of the North Island.

  • At least 2,500 people have been displaced and 225,000 left without power.

  • New Zealanders were told that power might not be restored to some areas “for days to weeks”.

  • High winds prevented helicopter rescues of people trapped in homes and vehicles.

  • Authorities are “really concerned” about the Hawke’s Bay settlement of Wairoa, which remains cut off from communications.

  • A firefighter is missing after a landslide in Auckland’s Muriwai destroyed a house he was checking.

  • As parliament briefly returned (it has now been postponed for the week), the climate change minister, James Shaw, made a furious speech excoriating parliament for lost decades of “bickering” over the climate crisis.

  • Air New Zealand cancelled all domestic flights in and out of Auckland on Tuesday afternoon.

  • Cyclone Gabrielle is gradually moving south-east away from New Zealand, but the risk of landslides is expected to remain high, particularly if the rain continues.

  • If you have been personally affected by the disaster, and are in a safe place to communicate, we would like to hear from you.

Some numbers out of the latest briefing from the prime minister:

  • 2,500 displaced and evacuated in the cyclone. That number is the first estimate the government has provided, and is subject to change, as there are still areas where communications are down.

  • 225,000 people without power across the North Island. Some may remain without power for weeks, the national grid operator has said.

  • 1,842 incidents recorded by Fire and Emergency related to Cyclone Gabrielle – at this stage, FENZ is only responding to incidents that represent a risk to life.

  • 200 defence force personnel deployed so far, with 22 army vehicles on the ground

  • $11.5m rolled out by the government to community groups and providers responding to the crisis – this figure does not capture emergency response, evacuations or the cost of the wider response.

  • 2 active rescue operations under way to try and access those trapped by rising flood waters.

  • 1 missing person reported: a firefighter remains missing after a landslide in Muriwai destroyed a house he was checking.

The government is “really concerned” about Wairoa, a settlement of about 8,600 in Hawke’s Bay that has had a blackout of all communications including satellite phones.

McAnulty said:

We’re aware of some flooding but we’re not aware of to what extent – and until the weather clears and we’re [able to] either re-establish communications or get people on the ground, we don’t have a full understanding of the impact there. That makes us feel anxious and it makes us feel concerned.

We are really concerned about that. We want to establish links soon as the weather allows us to do so – there are plans in place to get that under way.

Orchard workers stranded on rooftops in Hawke’s Bay

There are two active rescue missions under way in Hawke’s Bay. One is a group of orchard workers who were initially trapped on top of rooftops when flood waters rose. McAnulty said there has a helicopter operation to rescue them, but it had been hampered the weather.

“They have been stranded for quite some time,” he said. “There’s been a real delay because of the weather – even an NH 90 [military helicopter] couldn’t get to them.”

Risk of landslides to remain despite ‘calmer weather’ on the way

The cyclone is now gradually moving south-east away from New Zealand, and the weather should begin to calm over the next day, the prime minister has said – but he warned that the risk of landslides could stay high, especially if rainfall continues.

“A bit more rainfall can compound on top of the rainfall that we’ve already seen – so when it comes to things like slips and so on, we could still see more of that even as the weather starts to ease,” Hipkins said. “We’re still in for a bumpy, bumpy time ahead.

“The good news is that we should see some calmer weather coming within the next 24 hours or so.”

These are the first estimates the government has provided on displaced people. Minister Kieran McAnulty says: “We’re only working on estimates here because there are still areas we were struggling to communicate with.”

But the government know of 2,500 people – about 1,000 in the far north, about 1,000 in the Hawke’s Bay and about 400 households in Auckland.

Hipkins said that number may shift, as there are are still large areas of the North Island that are unreachable by road or telecommunications.

Australia and UK offer support to New Zealand

New Zealand has received “offers of reassuring support” from the Australian government, and Hipkins says he has spoken today to UK prime minister, Rishi Sunak, who also offered the country’s support.

A man kayaks across a flooded street in Auckland on Tuesday.

Damage to power grid not seen since Cyclone Bola in the 1980s

The damage to New Zealand’s power grid is extensive, the prime minister says, with damage not seen since Cyclone Bola in the 1980s.

He says a grid emergency is still in place, with electricity supply completely lost to the Hawke’s Bay and Gisborne and “potential outages for an extended period of time”.

Approximately 225,000 customers have been out without power across the North Island.

The situation is changing rapidly and the lines companies are expecting that there could be more customers to be affected.

The prime minister, Chris Hipkins, is speaking now. He says the government is still trying to assess the extent of the damage, but says it is already the biggest weather event to hit New Zealand this century.

We are still building a picture of the effects of the cyclone as it continues to unfold. But what we do know is the impact is significant and it is widespread.

Cyclone Gabrielle is the most significant weather event New Zealand has seen in this century. The severity and the damage that we are seeing has not been experienced in a generation.

A car drives on a damaged road in Auckland on Tuesday.

Prime minister to provide update on storm

We’re expecting a briefing from prime minister Chris Hipkins and emergency response minister Kieran McAnulty in the next 10 minutes or so, and will bring you the latest updates from parliament.

Footage of a submerged truck shows the dramatic rise of flood waters sweeping vehicles and outdoor furniture away in Puketapu, Hawke’s Bay.

Tongan workers on New Zealand’s North Island had a little over 40 minutes before flood waters forced them to seek refuge on the rooftops.

You can watch the scene unfold in the video below.

Severe wind warnings are still in place for chunks of the North Island, with some areas experiencing unrelenting gales. MetService has reported 30 consecutive hours of gale-force winds at the top of Northland.

Photos show rescue of sailor stranded on yacht in cyclone

The dramatic rescue of a stranded sailor from a yacht caught adrift at sea has been captured in a series of images published by New Zealand’s defence force today.

The boat had been in trouble off the coast of Great Barrier Island since Monday night when its anchor cable snapped. The yacht, with sailor on board, was grounded and then swept out to sea.

No air assets were able to reach the vessel at the time due to the severe weather,” the NZ navy said in a statement on Tuesday. “After searching for the vessel overnight, Te Mana received new details about the location of the vessel after an emergency locator beacon was activated.”

The sailor was pulled safely from the boat and on to Frigate HMNZS Te Mana by navy divers.

A man on a catamaran in distress has been rescued and is safe on board Royal New Zealand Navy frigate HMNZS Te Mana.
The boat had been in trouble off the coast of Great Barrier Island since Monday night when its anchor cable snapped.
The man pulled safely from the boat by navy divers.

MetService has shared a series of satellite images above New Zealand from 9am Tuesday morning.

It shows strong winds moving clockwise around Cyclone Gabrielle.

Aotearoa New Zealand correspondent for the Guardian, Tess McClure, has written about the extraordinary speech given by the climate change minister, James Shaw, in parliament today as Cyclone Gabrielle devastates the country.

His furious speech excoriated the New Zealand parliament for lost decades of “bickering” over the climate crisis.

Shaw, who is co-leader of the Green party, attributed the scale of the disaster to the climate crisis, saying: “There will be people who say it’s ‘too soon’ to talk about these things … but we are standing in it right now. This is a climate change-related event. The severity of it, of course, made worse by the fact that our global temperatures have already increased by 1.1 degrees.

“We need to stop making excuses for inaction. We cannot put our heads in the sand when the beach is flooding. We must act now.”

You can read the full story here:

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