- A State of National Emergency has been declared in response to several hundreds of significant incidents overnight, including emergency evacuations and rescues
- Tens of thousands of homes are without power across North Island - and entire settlements, including Piha, have been cut off by slips, flooding
- Mass power outage, flooding event in Hawkes Bay
- Cyclone’s latest track, region-by-region warnings, shelter locations and all you need to know
- Advice for how to cope with stress and anxiety
Cyclone Gabrielle is an unprecedented weather event that poses a real threat to the lives of New Zealanders, Emergency Management Minister Kieran McAnulty said as he declared a national state of emergency this morning.
A firefighter is missing and another is critically injured after a landslide occurred in Auckland’s west coast beach settlement Muriwai.
The volunteer firefighters were investigating a flooded house on Motutara Rd when a landslide occurred on the slope above and crushed the house. The search for the missing firefighter has been suspended.
“I feel for the family,” McAnulty said.
His message to New Zealanders was “safety first”, if anyone felt unsafe they should evacuate and not wait for officials to come.
Cyclone Gabrielle has pummeled North Island regions, with major flooding and slips cutting off many residents and homes.
Emergency services have seen a sharp rise in callouts overnight across many regions - including to “a number of collapsed houses in Auckland”; trees fallen on homes; flooding; slips; and burst riverbanks. In total, there have been almost 900 storm-related callouts in the 12 hours to 4am including 55 between 3am-4am - nine in Northland, 12 in Auckland, 12 in Waikato, three in Bay of Plenty and 19 in Hawke’s Bay.
Beachside areas such as Piha and Karekare and other settlements in Coromandel have been completely cut off and the Herald understands search and rescue units from across New Zealand are rushing to Auckland, including South Island teams.
Emergency services rushed to the beach settlement of Muriwai, 42km northwest of Auckland, about 10.50pm as heavy rain and strong winds pummelled the region - Fire and Emergency (FENZ) told the Herald it had received reports two houses had collapsed. Police said they were responding to an incident on Motutara Rd; the Herald understands a firefighter remains unaccounted for.
“We can confirm there are people trapped at one of the collapsed houses,” FENZ said. “There are several [search and rescue] teams and fire crews on site from across Tamaki Makaurau. This is an evolving situation and necessitated an evacuation of residents in Motutara and Domain Roads to the local Surf Life Saving Club.”
There’s been incredible scenes of rescues across Auckland, including farmers pitching in with diggers to help Fire and Emergency crews rescue half a dozen families from flooding in rural south Auckland.
Cyclone Gabrielle’s fury is being felt across many regions of the North Island, from Northland through to Auckland, Coromandel, Bay of Plenty, Waikato, Gisborne and Hawke’s Bay. Nine regions have declared states of emergency and tens of thousands of people are without power.
Fifty apartments in central Auckland have been evacuated over fears a tower will collapse as heavy rain and winds whipped up by Gabrielle.
Evacuations are underway in Dargaville, Northland due to flooding threat as the incoming high tide approaches. State Highway 12 and 14 are both closed due to flooding.
A serious flooding event is unfolding in Hawkes Bay and a widespread power outage has hit Napier and Hastings. Residents are being evacuated from 15 flooded properties in Waipukurau, as evacuation centres are opened at Centralines Stadium, Russell Street, Waipukurau and the CHB Municipal Theatre Waipawa.
Western Bay of Plenty declared a local state of emergency at 10.40pm and residents in Athenree, Maketu and Waihi Beach were told they were at serious risk of flooding from coastal surges. Further east, up to 500 homes in Ōpōtiki are being evacuated over flooding fears.
Gisborne residents in low-lying areas have also been asked to leave their homes due to rising rivers and surface flooding endangering properties. And there’s been a break in Gisborne City’s water supply with locals being urged to conserve water.
Coromandel residents have also been enduring a “miserable” night - dramatic images show the main highway to Hahei was already flooded by early evening, forcing people to abandon their cars.
STORY CONTINUES AFTER LIVE BLOG:
The flooding and evacuations come as Cyclone Gabrielle is expected to continue moving southeast as it strikes New Zealand - latest MetService forecasts warn of more “significant heavy rain and damaging winds” today. MetService says Gabrielle will track close to the east coast of the North Island, before moving to the southeast from late Tuesday. “This is a widespread and significant weather event. Significant heavy rain and damaging winds are impacting many parts of northern and central New Zealand. In addition, large waves, storm surges and coastal inundation are affecting exposed eastern coasts of the North Island,” the forecaster said.
The central Auckland apartments, in Mt Eden, have been evacuated after fears a 109-year-old steel tower could collapse. Auckland Emergency Management has tonight established a temporary exclusion zone around the Colonial Ammunition Company Shot Tower. Controller Mace Ward said the forecast high winds and bad weather could cause the 30-metre tower to collapse, damaging surrounding buildings.
“I have directed the evacuation of buildings surrounding the historic Colonial Ammunition Company Shot Tower based on engineering advice from Tonkin & Taylor, and MetService, earlier this evening,” Ward said. “Our building assessment team, alongside welfare officers and the police have been on site alerting residents of around 50 apartments that they need to urgently leave their homes.”
Residents across other Auckland suburbs are also being evacuated as Cyclone Gabrielle bears down on the upper North Island, bringing extreme weather. Multiple homes are being evacuated in Birkenhead on the North Shore due to falling trees.
MetService has urged Aucklanders to be alert to heavy rain, flooding, and slips hitting the region and for storm surges during tonight’s 2am high-tide in east coast areas. Transport bosses have warned Aucklanders to avoid non-urgent travel and that roads are blocked by flooding, trees and debris. Numerous roads in Piha to the west are blocked by slips and flooding and locals are being told to seek shelter at the surf club and RSA.
At an Auckland emergency response briefing, deputy controller Rachel Kelleher said: “We’re certainly not out of the woods yet. I can’t stress this enough, please have a plan to leave if you see water levels rising around you. Do not wait to be told to leave if you think you’re in danger.”
A photo sent to the Herald shows two people abandoning their cars and walking through dangerous flood waters on the road to Hahei in the Coromandel.
Tens of thousands without power
Tens of thousands of people across the North Island are waking to blackouts this morning, as authorities warn those who missed the brunt of Cyclone Gabrielle yesterday are in the firing line today.
MetService warns that the changing direction of the wind threatens “damaging” southwest gales in Auckland today as the fierce storm tracks towards the Coromandel.
Auckland Emergency Management (AEM) said the worst was still to come overnight and today, urging people to evacuate if necessary and expect widespread power cuts.
The storm intensified last night, lashing Auckland with wild winds and heavy rain.
Fifty apartments in Mt Eden were evacuated after fears a 109-year-old steel tower could collapse.
AEM last night established a temporary exclusion zone around the Colonial Ammunition Company Shot Tower. Controller Mace Ward said the forecast high winds and bad weather could cause the 30m tower to collapse, damaging surrounding buildings.
Multiple homes were being evacuated in Birkenhead on the North Shore due to falling trees.
Auckland’s trains were cancelled until midday today, while disrupted flights from the airport were set to resume from mid-morning. Buses were slated to replace trains but were also disrupted by blocked roads.
Cook Strait ferries have been put on hold until tomorrow and several ferry services in Auckland were cancelled yesterday.
A ferry briefly broke down in the Cook Strait and drifted while en route to Picton from Wellington. It’s not clear what caused the breakdown, but the ship was doing about one knot.
Ahead of high tide at 2am today, AEM deputy controller Rachel Kelleher said people needed to stay away from coastal and low-lying areas and shouldn’t wait for official word on whether to leave.
“I can’t stress this enough,” she said, “please have a plan to leave if you see water levels rising around you. Do not wait to be told to leave if you think you’re in danger.
“We’re not out of the woods yet.”
MetService said 178km/h winds have already been recorded in parts of the country with “no signs of [it] slowing down”.
The entirety of the North Island, as well as the top of the South Island, remained under red and orange weather warnings overnight.
With the risk of more severe weather, AEM advised people to prepare a grab bag should they need to evacuate with emergency supplies and a week’s worth of prescription medications ready.
People should also have lamps, torches and batteries, radios and camp stoves ready should power go out.
States of emergency have been declared in nine different districts, including Auckland, Northland, Coromandel, Gisborne, Ōpōtiki, Waikato, Hauraki, Whakatane and the wider Bay of Plenty.
Prime Minister Chris Hipkins said 25,000 people had received cyclone-related support so far, with the upper North Island experiencing Gabrielle’s fury yesterday.
Fire and Emergency NZ (Fenz) said last night it had fielded 472 storm-related calls in just 12 hours.
Calls where life and safety were at risk were prioritised, Fenz’s Auckland response manager Nick Dravitzki said.
Priority calls included trees bringing down power lines and blocking roads in the Far North, rescuing people trapped behind downed power lines and from flooded houses in Whangārei, trees fallen on homes, slips, flooding and rescuing people stuck in lifts in Auckland, and a landslide into a house in the Thames-Coromandel district.
A boatie was feared missing at sea near Auckland’s Great Barrier Island as the cyclone approached yesterday afternoon.
Police said they responded to reports of a boat in distress about 2.15am yesterday and inquiries were ongoing.
Dramatic video emerged last night of widespread flooding in the Coromandel, and a photo of people abandoning their cars and wading through deep floodwaters near Hahei.
Rising water inundated properties at Cooks Beach in the Coromandel while monster waves lashed the shore at Whiritoa.
A family of eight were stuck in a vehicle last night after being forced to evacuate to higher ground when floodwaters completely covered a bridge on the East Coast.
An Uawa Tolaga Bay Civil Defence spokesperson told the Herald the family, with infant children, are in contact with authorities after an “ill-advised” decision to attempt to drive across the Arero Rd bridge over the Hikuwai River.
One Whangārei woman suffered a heart attack as she was evacuating from her home after a tree crashed down on it late Sunday evening.
Debi Hobern, 64, escaped her house but went into shock and began shaking as she fled.
Meanwhile, key roads around the North Island were closed after being battered by the storm with slips and felled trees blocking roads.
Sections of State Highway 25 on the Coromandel were closed, while SH25A, between Kopu and Hikuai and the main access to Coromandel’s east coast, was already closed by a massive slip after the floods last month. SH26 in Waikato and SH35 in Tairāwhiti were closed yesterday evening.
Auckland’s train network was closed until midday today with some rail replacement buses put on while Auckland Transport reported a 50 per cent drop in road traffic.
Buses were to continue on their usual schedule, AT said, but were subject to delays and disruptions.
Hipkins said 46,000 homes were without power yesterday, with 22,000 reported outages as of 6pm in Auckland, mostly north of Orewa, according to lines company Vector.
Vector said this number was expected to change throughout the night - with some families braving the storm in darkness.
“We know this is not only frustrating, but can be upsetting for some people, and we thank them for their patience and understanding,” the lines company said.
Homes as far south as Wellington were also at risk of losing power, with strong winds there putting power lines at risk of fallen trees and branches.
Up to 500 homes were being evacuated in Ōpōtiki, Bay of Plenty ahead of the early-morning high tide, which was expected to bring large sea swells and inundation along low-lying areas.
The Defence Force was on call to assist with the evacuations, as were police.
At Auckland Airport, meanwhile, 45,000 travellers were affected after all domestic flights in and out of the city, and most international flights, were cancelled yesterday.
Hundreds of flights through the city’s airport were axed and Air New Zealand said it would take days to recover its schedule.
The airline was to resume domestic and international jet operations from mid-morning today, and turboprop operations from mid-afternoon, based on current weather predictions.
Disrupted passengers have been put in accommodation and would be rebooked, Air New Zealand said.
All Interislander ferries have been cancelled until Wednesday morning - affecting 12 sailings across the Cook Strait.
Interislander executive general manager Walter Rushbrook said safety was the company’s top priority and the weather had made cancellations “the only option”.
Supermarkets in the upper North Island were closed early yesterday, with workers at Countdowns sent home to ensure they could get to safety before the worst of the weather.
A spokesperson for Countdown said shops would open as usual today but online orders could be affected.
Hipkins, meanwhile, thanked emergency services yesterday for the work already done to respond to Gabrielle and the past fortnight’s flooding in Auckland.
It came as the Government yesterday pledged $11.5 million of funding to support flood- and cyclone-hit regions and communities.
The money comes in the form of a community support package, and is aimed to help tens of thousands of people affected.
EARLIER LIVE BLOG: