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Thursday, March 23, 2023

New Zealand Declares National Emergency Over Cyclone Gabrielle’s North Island Impact.

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New Zealand declared a national emergency for the third time on Tuesday after Cyclone Gabriel swept through the North Island with wind and rain, cutting out the power to tens of thousands of homes. According to the New Zealand Department of Meteorology, gusts of over 140 kilometers per hour (87 miles per hour) have been recorded along the coast with waves about 11 meters high in the Bay of Islands. Prime Minister Chris Hipkins said the full extent of the disaster was only revealed when the country woke up on Tuesday.

The cyclone is the second significant weather event to hit Auckland and the upper North Island in just a few weeks. Last month Auckland and surrounding areas were hit by record rainfall that sparked floods and killed four people. This latest disaster is the third national state of emergency after the 2011 Christchurch earthquake and the Covid pandemic in 2020 and is due to a weather system off the country’s north that is tracking south and east along the coast. Overnight, 150 New Zealand Defence Force personnel joined efforts to distribute supplies and evacuate residents from areas where rising water forced some homeowners onto roofs. Electricity is out for tens of thousands of residents, and the cell service is patchy in some areas, making it hard to coordinate services and contact people left stranded.

A red warning, the highest warning level issued by Meteorological New Zealand is still in effect and will continue for most of Tuesday. The weather forecaster expects strong winds to continue over the east coast and neighboring interiors of the North and South Islands for 24 to 36 hours before easing gradually by Wednesday afternoon. Up to 150 mm of additional precipitation is expected through Thursday in the southeastern region of the North Island, including Wellington while less rain is expected in the South Island, north of Christchurch.

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