Three killed in New Zealand cyclone as clean-up begins

Four people have been confirmed dead and thousands displaced in New Zealand after Cyclone Gabrielle brought widespread flooding and landslides to the northern part of the country.

Gabrielle, which reached New Zealand on Sunday before making its way down the east coast of the North Island, cut off entire towns, washed away farms, bridges and livestock, and inundated homes, stranding people on rooftops.

It was weakening and moving away on Wednesday.

“We thankfully are through the worst of the storm but we’re not out of danger yet,” Minister for Emergency Management Kieran McAnulty said during a televised media briefing.

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“This is a significant disaster and is going to take many weeks for those areas most affected to recover … we are in this for the long haul.”

Police on Wednesday said four people had now been confirmed dead including a volunteer firefighter who responded to a call on Monday and was caught in a landslide.

The body of a child was also found in Eksdale on the remote east coast after they were “believed to have been caught in rising flood water”.

Residents in the worst-hit areas are being asked to conserve water and food because of fears of shortages. Gabrielle was the second large storm to hit the North Island in as many weeks with Auckland still recovering from torrential rain and floods that left four dead.

About three-quarters of New Zealand’s 5 million people live on the North Island.

Authorities estimate more than 10,000 people have been displaced so far.

A weather station in the Hawke’s Bay and Napier region recorded three times more rain over Monday night than usually falls during the entire month of February, authorities said. Gusts were reported at 140 km (87 miles) an hour.

More than 300 people were rescued from the area on Tuesday, including 60 stranded on a roof, McAnulty said. Helicopters helped winch the last two dozen people to safety on Wednesday.

Rivers in Hawke’s Bay continue to pose risks and local emergency management ordered further evacuations early on Wednesday. About 225,000 homes across the island are still without electricity.

Mother of four Jennie Perris, who lives on four hectares (10 acres) of land on the outskirts of Whangarei, about 170 km (106 miles) north of Auckland, said her family had been without power since Sunday.

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Perris said the roads had cleared on Tuesday and the family had been able to head into the city and shower at her mother’s house, charge devices and stock up on bottled water, but was now back to cooking on the barbecue.

“We’re doing everything on it,” she said.

New Zealand declared a national emergency over the storm on Tuesday, only the third time it has ever done so.

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