Record rainfall paralyzes New Zealand's north island

Jan. 27 (UPI) -- A state of emergency was declared Friday in Auckland, New Zealand's largest city, after flooding caused by torrential rain forced the closure of Auckland's airport and left at least one person dead.

Auckand Mayor Wayne Brown issued the order as record-breaking rainfall caused chaos across the north island with residents being evacuated from their homes and widespread travel chaos.


"This declaration reflects the extent of damage, displacement and disruption caused by this evening's severe weather event and enables emergency services and response agencies to draw on resources and enact additional powers to assist affected Aucklanders," he said.

A ''red'' heavy rain warning for the region remained in force early Saturday, New Zealand time, and Auckland Emergency Management urged people to stay home, if possible.

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Residents in flood-affected areas were told to be ready to evacuate to an evacuation center in the west of the city.

Auckland police said a body had been located in the city's North Shore, an area badly affected by the flooding, but that it was unclear if the death was flood-related.

The airport is expected to remain closed until Saturday and Air New Zealand, the national carrier, advising passengers not to travel to the airport's international terminal until further notice.


State Highway 1, which runs north out of Auckland, was closed, but officials opened the Puhoi motorway to reach stranded motorists overnight, the New Zealand Herald reported.

Prime Minister, Chris Hipkins, who was only sworn into office on Wednesday, said at a 2 a.m. press conference in Auckland that the number of people injured would not be known until the morning.

He said there were close to 1,000 people stranded at the airport and many others unable to move from where they were.

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"My message to Aucklanders is to be kind to each other and offer support to one another," he said.

MetService, New Zealand's national weather authority, said a record 9.8 inches of rain had fallen on Auckland in the past 24 hours, smashing the previous 24-hour record of 6.4 inches recorded in February 1985.

The authority said the January record had also been broken with 12.6 inches of rain falling so far this month, compared with 7.8 inches in the wettest January recorded at the Auckland Airport weather station in 1986. The wettest month ever was July 1998 with 11.8 inches.

The flooding also forced a rock concert by Elton John in Auckland, expected to draw 40,000 people, to be canceled at the last minute.


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