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Cyclone Gabrielle wreaks havoc in New Zealand, homes evacuated, power outages in cities

New Zealand declared a national state of emergency as Cyclone Gabrielle caused widespread flooding, and landslides (PIc. Courtesy ANI)

New Zealand declared a national state of emergency on Tuesday as Cyclone Gabrielle caused widespread flooding, landslides and huge ocean swells, forcing evacuations and stranding people on roof tops. Thousands of homes were left without power following heavy rain and strong winds.

Authorities have evacuated beach settlements and are still asking people to leave home as rivers continue to swell and the tide rises. Roads are closed, mobile phone services are down and some towns are cut off, according to a Reuters report.

Prime Minister Chris Hipkins said it was too early to say how many people had been displaced or injured. No deaths have been confirmed.

“It has been a big night for New Zealanders across the country, but particularly in the upper North Island … a lot of families displaced, a lot of homes without power, extensive damage done across the country,” he told journalists.

Gabrielle is 100 km (60 miles) east of Auckland, near the east coast of the country’s North Island and is expected to move east-southeast, roughly parallel to the coast.

Kieran McAnulty, minister of emergency management, said the country was suffering from extensive flooding, landslides and damage to roads and infrastructure.

Flood waters and landslides have cut off many settlements across the country including some near Auckland, New Zealand’s largest city.

“This is a significant disaster with a real threat to lives of New Zealanders,” McAnulty added.

Rain and high winds are reported to be hampering efforts of the emergency.

Severe weather would extend to the upper South Island as the cyclone moved, the weather forecaster said.

Local media are publishing photographs and video of people sitting on top of buildings surrounded by flood water, of houses swept to the bottom of hills by landslides and of roads under water.

The New Zealand government declared a national state of emergency Tuesday after a tropical storm lashed the North Island.

Minister for Emergency Management Kieran McAnulty signed the declaration as tens of thousands of homes were left without power following heavy rain and strong winds.

“This is an unprecedented weather event that is having major impacts across much of the North Island,” McAnulty said.

“We are all facing extensive floods, slips, damaged roads and infrastructure.”

The New Zealand Fire and Emergency services said a firefighter is missing and another is in a critical condition after a house collapsed in West Auckland.

“It’s been a tough night for the North Island as a whole but it’s been especially tough for fire and emergency,” said Kerry Gregory, chief executive of the fire service.

The freak weather grounded flights on Monday, but Air New Zealand have said they expect some services to resume on Tuesday afternoon.