NEW ZEALAND: At least five people have perished, and evacuations are still going on as new storm warnings are announced in the area of New Zealand already ravaged by Cyclone Gabrielle, and the prime minister, Chris Hipkins, warns of the likelihood of additional fatalities.
3,455 people had been listed as “uncontactable” by police as of 2:30 p.m. on Thursday, with some reports possibly being for the same person more than once.
New Zealand’s Prime Minister Hipkins said, “Police are prioritising those who are in remote places because they, think the majority of those designated uncontactable simply cannot establish contact with loved ones.” Hipkins added that there are certain people about whom the police have “grave concerns.”
Hipkins described the damage as “extensive” after visiting storm-devastated Gisborne on Thursday and noted that basics like food and clean water are still needed. He compared the cyclone to the 2011 Christchurch earthquake in terms of scale.
On Thursday morning, New Zealand asked Australia for assistance with disaster response as the scale of the damage was still developing.
Hipkins said, “I can affirm the fact that NEMA [the National Emergency Management Agency] received an offer of assistance and knowledge in emergency response from another agency.”
The prime minister of New Zealand said earlier in the day that the country would need to review and redesign its infrastructure as a result of significant weather events.
“There is little doubt that as a nation, we must examine the robustness of our infrastructure, and we must do so with a lot more urgency than ever before,” he said.
Fresh storms are arriving as the emergency response continued, and severe thunderstorm alerts were issued on Thursday morning for the worst-affected areas.
The Bay of Plenty, Gisborne and the Hawke’s Bay region was included in a severe thunderstorm warning issued by the national weather service MetService for Thursday afternoon. These three regions have seen some of the worst flooding, damage, and fatalities.
Heavy rain and hail were among the “very unstable conditions,” as per MetService. They stated that rainfall of this intensity, particularly near low-lying areas, “can cause surface and/or flash flooding.”
Residents in central Hawke’s Bay were given new evacuation orders on Thursday morning, with those near Drumpeel Road being instructed to “leave immediately.”
Authorities relied on Space X’s Starlink satellite communications service to offer internet in some locations, although communication to the worst-affected areas remained challenging.
On the North Island, there were approximately 102,000 households without electricity as of Thursday afternoon, down from 225,000 on Tuesday morning.
As storm waters recede, they are exposing extensive damage, including homes that have been partially submerged in mud and silt or have shifted off their foundations.
Supt. Jeanette Park, Eastern Police District Commander, stated on Thursday morning, “It’s just unbelievable the devastation. When you see it, it’s hard to comprehend.”
As of Thursday morning, people were still being rescued from their homes in Hawke’s Bay, as per Urban Search and Rescue. Urban Search and Rescue specialist Ken Cooper of Napier said during a radio interview that individuals had been scaling down from roofs to take cover in the upper levels of their properties.
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