- 225,000 homes without power; at least 2500 families displaced from homes, including 1000 in Far North and 1000 in Hawke’s Bay
- Wrecked homes, roads and loss of power, and communication in Wairoa, Gisborne, Napier, Hastings and other eastern coast towns
- Hawke’s Bay’s day of horror - we thought we were grazing a bullet, until it spun around a corner
- ‘We’ve been through hell’: Survivors tell harrowing tales of climbing onto roofs, desperate attempts to save animals from floods
- ‘It was beyond belief’: Search and rescue veteran describes Muriwai chaos
At least two people have now died and a volunteer firefighter remains missing as new aerial images reveal Cyclone Gabrielle’s deadly coast-to-coast path of destruction in the North Island, from Muriwai to Hawke’s Bay. Homes have been destroyed, towns entirely cut off and hundreds of thousands of residents are still without power across many regions. Hawke’s Bay, Gisborne and Muriwai have been among the regions most severely hit - and there are new evacuations in Napier this morning amid rising floodwaters.
One staggering aerial photograph of a horse stranded on a building in flooded Hawke’s Bay has sparked a desperate bid by animal lovers across New Zealand to rescue the stricken animal.
The photograph, shared by the New Zealand Equestrian Scene Facebook page, shows the animal on the roof of a building on Dartmoor Road in Puketapu, beside the Tutaekuri River.
“I can’t stop crying,” one woman wrote on seeing the image, which also shows another horse on a bank beside the flooded paddock that has consumed the building.
So far, there have been two confirmed deaths while a volunteer firefighter is still missing at Muriwai, west of Auckland. One woman died after a landslip on her property in northern Hawke’s Bay and another person’s body has been found on a storm-ravaged beach.
“Overnight there have been reports of further fatalities across the country and our hearts go out to the families,” Fire and Emergency chief executive Kerry Gregory said at an 8am emergency briefing. “As New Zealand wakes this morning there are parts of the country that are still in the middle of the effects of the cyclone.”
New aerial photographs from Auckland’s west coast beaches reveal the devastating landslips that took out homes on Monday night. Rescuers hope to resume their search today for missing volunteer firefighter Dave van Zwanenberg who was swept up in the landslide as he attended to the flooded home. One of his colleagues was pulled from the collapsed house and is in a critical condition in hospital. “Our intention is to bring our firefighter home,” said a FENZ official today.
Flooding and inundation into the coastal suburb of Te Awa Estate was “escalating”, Hawke’s Bay Civil Defence said this morning, saying it was recommending all residents in the area evacuate to family or friends’ homes.
It comes as new images reveal the extent of destruction caused by Gabrielle - and the sheer heroics of rescuers. Aerial photographs show towns such as Wairoa have been completely swamped by floodwaters, while Gisborne, Napier, Hastings and other settlements along the North Island east coast struggle with the loss of homes, roads, power, phones and the internet.
The tales of tragedy come as Prime Minister Chris Hipkins labelled Cyclone Gabrielle the “most severe weather event this century”. About 225,000 people have lost power, from Northland and Auckland, through to Coromandel, Gisborne and Hawke’s Bay. About 2500 families have been displaced from their homes, including at least 1000 Hawke’s Bay and 1000 in the Far North.
The Defence Force has released incredible images of residents being plucked from their rooftops in Esk Valley, near Napier. Homes and properties were completely swamped in the area. The Defence Force said three NH90 helicopters were used to rescue people from their homes.
And aerial photographs released by Hawke’s Bay Civil Defence show Wairoa has been completely isolated, with homes under water. There are fears the town has supplies for only one more day - authorities are striving urgently to build communication and transport channels with the town.
Wairoa’s river burst its banks, inundating 10-15 per cent of the town which is home to around half of the town’s 8000 population. With no power or phones, the only communication is via satellite phone. Wairoa council used Elon Musk’s Starlink satellites to make contact. The area faces “severe challenges”, it said.
In an email on Tuesday evening, the council says Wairoa has been “significantly impacted by river flooding as a result of Cyclone Gabrielle.”
Hundreds of people have been evacuated. “We are managing but we are geographically isolated and facing severe challenges. These include food and water supply, fuel and communications. We are working to ensure people’s safety and trying to provide the best services we can given our limitations.”
There are very limited supplies of food and water with no drinking water supply due to the flooding. An RNZAF reconnaissance flight was to be sent to the northern Hawke’s Bay town. “Wairoa, particularly, is of concern,” Emergency Response Minister Kieran McAnulty earlier said about communication with the town.
STORY CONTINUES AFTER LIVE BLOG:
Almost a quarter of a million people were plunged into darkness yesterday and entire communities were cut off as Gabrielle wrought devastation, forcing thousands of evacuations from some of the hardest-hit regions.
Telecommunications, including phone lines and internet services, have been stretched, as police stood up a major operation to cope with reports people could not be reached in cyclone-stricken regions.
A national state of emergency was declared yesterday morning - as Prime Minister Chis Hipkins called Gabrielle the most severe weather event this century, with damage unseen since Cyclone Bola in 1988.
The defence force yesterday helped rescue people from roofs of houses and cars inundated by flooding, and homes were destroyed by trees downed by severe gales - as Emergency Response Minister Keiren McAnulty suggested 2500 Kiwis had been displaced.
Emergency services used helicopters and boats to rescue stranded residents in flood-ravaged Napier, while more than 200 military personnel have been stationed around the island, helping to move supplies to isolated areas.
On Auckland’s west coast, people were told to stay away from the devastated settlement of Muriwai where a volunteer firefighter went missing after a slip fell on a flooded house being assessed late Monday night.
Dramatic footage showed the scale of the disaster, with an entire cliff face shorn away, taking with it the mangled debris of a destroyed property.
Residents of regions most impacted by Gabrielle’s destruction have been asked to conserve water, petrol, and food, as response services were running out, after supply lines and infrastructure in Gisborne were stretched and severed.
Rivers around the island burst their banks which, along with countless slips and snapped trees, blocked and submerged roads - closing key transport routes.
Some 80 roads in Auckland alone were closed among others elsewhere, and while some train services resumed and buses continued to run, ferry services in the city faced major disruptions and cancellations.
All domestic through the city’s airport were cancelled yesterday as strong winds put ground handling workers’ safety at risk, and all international flights were temporarily halted in the afternoon.
About 42,000 Auckland homes remained without power.
Supermarkets closed early again yesterday, after several days where workers battled getting home during the peak of Gabrielle’s wrath, and the impact on food growers and producers was being assessed.
Cyclone Gabrielle is expected to move away from the country early this morning, but the impacts will be felt for much longer with more rain forecast this week before hopefully fine weather this weekend.
Muriwai cordoned off
Police cordoned off the entirety of Muriwai amid “extreme concern” people were trying to return to the dangerous and unstable area.
Emergency services were deployed but decided the risk posed was “too high” to continue operations there, Auckland Council’s director of regulatory services Craig Hobbs said.
At least 270mm of rain fell on the isolated settlement, according to Hauraki Gulf Weather, where families sheltered in the local surf club after being evaluated from their homes amid landslips and driving rain.
One resident told the Herald she cried all day yesterday after losing her home to a slip which took out her ground floor.
Defence force aid evacuations in Hawke’s Bay
It came as the defence force assisted in mass evacuations there, in Auckland’s Māngere and across Hawke’s Bay in Esk Valley, Napier, and in Dargaville, Northland.
Dramatic photographs captured hectares of widespread flooding in Esk Valley, Puketapu Valley and Taradale where the deluge trapped more than 40 households, some with water lapping up to their rooves.
Bridges were washed out and trees collapsed on properties around Hastings as people huddled onto the back of trucks to escape.
State Highway 2 between Waipawa and Waipukurau - and the entirety of the highway between Napier and Gisborne has been closed due to the weather. SH50 and SH5 were also closed.
‘Caranage’ in cut-off Coromandel
Meanwhile, the Coromandel was also hard-hit by Gabrielle with well over 400mm of rain and gales “closing” the peninsula, already sodden by downpours in the past month, Civil Defence controller Garry Trowler said.
Thames Coromandel District Council chief executive Aileen Lawrie said yesterday morning there were mass power outages and virtually every road in the district was closed.
“We know we’ve got problems with services with power going out and we’ve got some challenges ahead of us today,” Lawrie said.
”My controller [Trowler] is using the word ‘carnage’,” she said.
A majority of SH25 was closed around the peninsula and between Hikuai and Onemana, and the whole of SH25A remained closed across the Coromandel.
Phone services severed in Tairāwhiti
In the completely disconnected Tairāwhiti Gisborne, where landline and mobile phone services have been cut, and district Civil Defence controller Ben Green told residents to conserve water quickly running out.
“We all need to come together as a community to avoid taps running dry,” Green said
“The other key message is to please stay home to conserve fuel and keep our roads clear for emergency services.
”The supermarkets remain closed as we are working to restore access with data and power.
A fibre cable supplying internet services to the region was severed and the peninsula remained without electricity while generators have been given to coastal communities.
More than two dozen families sought refuge at a local marae as floodwaters threatened their homes overnight Monday while a valley at Manutake was submerged by water.
Meanwhile, in Taranaki, tens of thousands of people spent Monday night without electricity and the hospital reduced services to focus on essential visits only.
‘Bumpy time ahead’ - PM Hipkins
Prime Minister Chris Hipkins said the country was “still in for a bumpy time ahead” and it was possible there could be more people displaced in areas with limited communication like Gisborne.
Hipkins expressed “enormous gratitude” to the first responders and acknowledged the communities hard hit by the cyclone.
Meanwhile, the Government yesterday announced the Back to Work grants to support the recovery from the Auckland Anniversary Weekend floods over a fortnight ago.
The grants are for small businesses in need and up to $5000 was available for red- and yellow-stickered businesses, while smaller amounts were available for those which could prove “significant need”.
Auckland Mayor Wayne Brown proposed $20m a year in funding towards “storm response activities” to prevent and mitigate the worst impacts of future weather events.
“The impact of Cyclone Gabrielle, on top of unprecedented rainfall and flooding in late January, has strengthened my resolve to fix Auckland’s infrastructure,” Brown said.
The council would vote on whether the proposed funding should go to the public for a consultation today.
Persistent strong winds made it hard yesterday for Auckland Transport to assess and repair damaged roads.
Auckland Transport’s executive general manager Safety Stacey van der Putten said: “We appreciate how important it is to restore access to isolated communities across West and North Auckland.
“We want to assure residents that restoring some form of access is our top priority.”
‘Light at the end of the tunnel’: Fine weather from this weekend - MetService
MetService, meanwhile, said Gabrielle was to track southeast and move away from New Zealand early this morning.
Meteorologist Andrew James said there would be lingering rain this week as Gabrielle’s impacts were felt for much longer.
“There is some light at the end of the tunnel”, James said, with forecasts showing spells of settled weather in the North Island from this weekend onwards.
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