Key Points:

  • Cyclone Cook is now tracking south unleashing heavy rain east over the South Island.
  • It is expected to pass east of Oamaru about noon and off the east coast of Dunedin around 6pm.
  • Roads around Christchurch are flooded.
  • The Heathcote River has burst its banks
  • More than 10,000 homes without power in Hawke's Bay and 1400 across Gisborne, Wairarapa, Whanganui and Bay of Plenty.
  • 130 people sheltered overnight in Whakatane evacuation centre.
  • Whakatane District remains under state of emergency.
  • Two people were hospitalised in Hawke's Bay after a tree hit their car.
  • Gusts exceeding 200km/h were recorded on White Island.

The South Island is on high alert as heavy rain starts to flood roads and rivers while a massive clean-up is underway in the North Island after Cyclone Cook carved a destructive swathe across eastern regions overnight.

Heavy rain and strong wind watches remain in force for southern regions as the cyclone unleashes its final sting before moving away from the country tonight.

Christchurch's Heathcote River this morning burst its banks and many city roads are underwater as heavy rain continues to fall.

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In flood-prone Flockton temporary pumps are being used and a close watch is being kept on water levels.

Meanwhile thousands of homes remain without power across the Bay of Plenty, Hawke's Bay, Wairarapa and Wanganui after the cyclone ripped down the island overnight.

Roofs were torn off in Hawke's Bay, windows smashed in Whakatane, trampolines tossed in the air, mud dumped on roads and hundreds of trees uprooted across the island as the country took a battering from the "worst storm in generations".

The MetService registered gusts exceeding 200km/h on White Island in the Bay of Plenty, and on the mainland, Cape Kidnappers and coastal Gisborne registered 150km/h gusts. In Napier winds "like freight trains" sent outdoor furniture and trees flying.

Charles Po'ona claims his new possie after trees along McDonald Street in Napier were uprooted crushing two cars. Photo / Paul Taylor
Charles Po'ona claims his new possie after trees along McDonald Street in Napier were uprooted crushing two cars. Photo / Paul Taylor

SEE TODAY'S COVERAGE, AS IT HAPPENED:

Firefighters dealt with more than 150 call-outs to emergencies in Opotiki, Mount Maunganui and Hawke's Bay as wild winds battered regions and more than 120 people sought refuge in emergency welfare centres.

Many roads across eastern regions are impassable including massive slips that have blocked the highway across the Kaimai Ranges.

Thousands of homes remain without power across the Bay of Plenty, Hawke's Bay, Wairarapa and Wanganui after the cyclone barrelled down the island overnight.

Around 10,000 customers in the Hawke's Bay remain without power. Power authorities warn it could take most of Easter weekend before everyone has electricity.

A further 800 households in the East Coast and nearly 600 in Bay of Plenty, Wairarapa and Whanganui are also with electricity.

This trampoline flew over two houses in Gisborne and wrapped itself around a power pole. Photo / Supplied
This trampoline flew over two houses in Gisborne and wrapped itself around a power pole. Photo / Supplied

Those evacuated from Bay of Plenty coastal areas have now been cleared to go home but those on the Whakatane town water supply are facing a fresh crisis. Residents have been ordered to conserve water and not flush toilets after the sewerage system stopped working in the power cut.

Red Cross emergency response teams have been out helping those worst affected by the storm with a disaster welfare support team is heading to Whakatane to help with the Cook response.

Councils officials from affected authorities were out surveying the damage and assessing how to repair battered and flooded roads and buildings.

Despite dire warnings Auckland escaped largely unscathed with the storm tracking around 50 kilometres further east than predicted.

This morning the state of emergency was lifted across the Thames-Coromandel district with the mayor declaring the Coromandel was open for business.

A state of civil emergency has been lifted in the Bay of Plenty. But a local state of emergency has been re-issued for the Whakatane District which bore the brunt of the ferocious storm.