A national state of emergency was declared on Tuesday morning as Cyclone Gabrielle’s full force is felt around the North Island. Coastal communities west of Auckland - including Piha, and Muriwai - as well as Coromandel, Gisborne and Hawke’s Bay are among those hardest hit overnight.
Civil Defence Minister Kieran McAnulty said it was distressing to hear about the two firefighters trapped by a landslide in Muriwai. ”These are highly trained volunteers, they left their own families to go help their communities,” he told AM.
Ball said Muriwai had been completely cut off due to slips and residents were evacuated overnight. “It’s been a very frightening and challenging night for people, especially in Muriwai.”
He said the cyclone had so far closely followed the predicted track and is warning that conditions are not expected to start easing until this afternoon.
A major emergency operation was launched in Muriwai, 42km northwest of Auckland, after the two firefighters were caught in the landslide.
“Last night, a crew from one of our volunteer fire brigades were investigating flooding in a house on Motutara Rd in Muriwai,” said FENZ chief executive Kerry Gregory. “While they were at the property, a landslide occurred on the slope above, and the house collapsed.
“Two of our firefighters were trapped. One was rescued early this morning and is in a critical condition in hospital. The search for our second firefighter was suspended in the early hours of the morning due to the instability of the land.”
Gregory said a full rescue operation was initiated as soon as the landslide occurred, involving 10 crews from seven brigades and including Urban Search and Rescue (USAR), police and St John.
“Our thoughts are with our firefighters, and with their loved ones. We are also providing support to the other members of their brigade. This is a very difficult time for them, and for every member of Fire and Emergency NZ when we are also focused on responding to the continuing need in so many communities across the North Island today.”