Damaging winds and sea surges from ex-tropical Cyclone Pam are escalating as the storm batters the Chatham Islands today, and conditions are expected to get worse overnight.


Between 10 and 15 people have sought shelter in a welfare centre on the island as residents in low-lying areas have been evacuated from their homes to higher ground.
Chatham Islands Civil Defence spokeswoman Rana Solomon said a wharf on the northern side of the island had been damaged.

"It's not a main wharf but it's certainly going to affect the fishing village," she said.


Trees had come down near homes and across roads, power poles had been smashed and wharf sheds had lost roofs.

"We've got about 50 homes without power and could stay without power for a day or two," Ms Solomon said.

The remnants of Cyclone Pam were felt from yesterday afternoon, and had gradually built over the day.

"It's going to continue to escalate," Ms Solomon said.

"If we have to go out it will only be to assist people in dire need or to evacuate anyone else urgently.

"The island is bunking down tonight and we'll see what tomorrow brings."

Chatham Islands mayor Alfred Preece said locals were staying indoors and off the roads.

A number of roads on the islands were closed and could remain so for some time due to damage.


The Ministry of Civil Defence said Cyclone Pam was expected to lie 450km east-southeast of the Chatham Islands by midnight tonight, and damaging gales, rain and heavy swells were expected to last through to tomorrow evening.

Cyclone Pam demolishes the beach line at Hicks Bay. The locals tell nzherald.co.nz what has happened and how sad and scary the storm was.

Gisborne and the East Coast were spared significant damage as Pam passed by yesterday, with many saying the region "dodged a bullet".

Further down the coast, heavy swells pounded the Hawkes Bay, flooding coastal properties and roads.

The remnants of Cyclone Pam finally faded away to the southeast about 4.30pm yesterday, to be replaced with a strong southwesterly change.

Homes are being evacuated, roads are flooded, and power has been cut to several communities as ex-tropical cyclone Pam moves towards the East Coast.

The heavy 3-4m easterly swells on the East Coast had been expected to drop in size by midday today.

A number of witnesses have said they had "never seen swell like it before" in some parts of the district, particularly Te Araroa and Anaura Bay.

The southwesterly change brought a big easterly swell into Poverty Bay overnight.

More than 100 people voluntarily evacuated their homes during the storm at Te Araroa at the top of the cape, and further south at Anaura Bay and Waima at the northern end of Tokomaru Bay.

Most of them returned to their homes last night.

Gisborne district mayor Meng Foon said the district definitely "dodged Pam".

A full damage assessment by helicopter would determine the extent of damage.

"But at this stage we appear to have got off lightly," Mr Foon said.