New Zealand roiled by flash floods, landslides for third day

Auckland, Jan. 29 (BNA): The death toll from heavy rains in New Zealand rose to four today, Sunday, as floods and landslides continued in the North Island for a third day.

Auckland, New Zealand’s largest city, which has been battered since Friday, remains under a state of emergency. The country’s forecaster, MetService, warned of more severe weather on Sunday and Monday in the North Island, Reuters reports.

She added that heavy rainfall may also cause surface and rapid flooding.

“We know there is potential for severe weather tonight,” Oakland Emergency Management Controller Rachel Kelleher told reporters.

The state of emergency covers large swathes of the North Island, with the Waitomo region about 220 kilometers (140 miles) from Auckland, declared a state of emergency late Saturday.

Police said a man missing after being washed up on Friday in the rural village of Onehiro, 70 km (40 miles) south of Auckland, has been confirmed dead.

“The most terrible part about it is that we lost lives,” Deputy Prime Minister Carmel Cipollone said in Auckland, a city of 1.6 million people.

Climate change is causing bouts of heavy rainfall to become more common and more intense in New Zealand, although the impact varies by region. Climate Change Secretary James Shaw made the link to climate change on Saturday when he tweeted his support for those affected by the floods.

On Sunday, police said they were helping to manage traffic and road closures in the Waitomo region after heavy rains “caused numerous slides and floods and damaged roads.”

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In the nearby Bay of Plenty there was also “widespread flooding”, police said, as well as a landslide that destroyed a home and threatened nearby properties.

The authorities said that thousands of properties are still without electricity, while water has been cut off for hundreds.

However, Air New Zealand has resumed international flights to and from Auckland and will resume at noon Sunday (2300 GMT Saturday), a spokesperson said.

Prime Minister Chris Hepkins, who has been in office for less than a week, flew by helicopter over Auckland on Saturday and toured homes swept away by the floods. He described the flood’s impact on the city as “unprecedented” in recent memory.

The New Zealand Herald reported Saturday that people have made more than 2,000 calls for help and 70 evacuations around Auckland – the country’s largest city – because of the flooding.

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