NZ declares state of emergency as cyclone strikes the North Island

New Zealand declares a state of emergency as a huge cyclone strikes the North Island – leaving thousands without power as homes go underwater

  • National emergency declared in NZ for third time ever
  • Cyclone Gabrielle caused flooding, power cuts and closures 

New Zealand has been placed in a national state of emergency due to widespread damage from Tropical Cyclone Gabrielle. 

Thousands of Kiwis on the North Island have woken up to no power, flooded homes, road closures and phone outages after a massive storm caused major chaos and cut off communities. 

Regional states of emergency have been declared in at least 10 regions of North Island, including Auckland, Northland, Thames-Coromandel, Napier and Hastings. 

Tens of thousands – if not hundreds of thousands are without power due to destructive winds from the storm, including the entire city of Napier.

In Muriwai, a coastal town west of Auckland, a volunteer firefighter is feared missing and another is in a critical condition after a home collapsed under a landslide.

Emergency Management Minister Kieran McAnulty declared a national emergency shortly before 9am local time on Tuesday.

It’s just the third time in history New Zealand has declared a national emergency, first in 2011 after the Christchurch earthquake and again during the Covid -19 pandemic. 

‘This is an unprecedented weather event that is having major impacts across much of the North Island,’ Mr McAnulty said.

‘The local leadership, CDEM groups, and emergency responders in all of the affected areas have been doing an outstanding job, but the widespread damage caused by this cyclone means we need a National declaration to support them.

‘A National State of Emergency gives the National Controller legal authority to apply resources across the country in support of a national level response.’

Overnight, Gabrielle continued its southwards march before parking near Great Barrier Island, to the north of the Coromandel Peninsula.

By 8am, it had moved east to the Bay of Plenty, north of Tauranga, but its massive size is whipping up destructive winds all across North Island. 

The city of Whangārei has been inundated with floodwaters as Tropical Cyclone Gabrielle continues to cause widespread chaos

Emergency crews were inundated with almost 900 storm-related callouts in the 12 hours to 4am Tuesday.

MetService executive Lisa Murray said some areas of the Coromandel, the region closest to the storm’s eye, received 300 millimetres of rain during the storm to date.

‘It really is widespread across the North Island,’ she told Radio NZ.

Asked what area gives her the most concern, Ms Murray replied ‘There are so many areas’.

‘There’s a lot of places in trouble.’

On the East Coast, the Gisborne and Hawkes Bay regions have been battered by similar totals, with rivers breaking their banks and forcing evacuations.

Terrifying conditions didn’t deter these surfers at Auckland’s at Goat Island Marine Reserve

‘I’ve been in the region over 20 years and this is by far the biggest (storm) … people have not seen a storm like this. It’s a very, very significant event,’ Hawkes Bay civil defence spokesman Ian Maxwell told Radio NZ.

In Muriwai, grave fears are held for the safety of the volunteer firefighter missing after the home’s collapse.

Fire and Emergency NZ chief executive Kerry Gregory said the property was too unsafe to search.

‘Our thoughts are with our firefighters, and with their loved ones. We are also providing support to the other members of their brigade,’ he told TVNZ.

Transport authority Waka Kotahi reports about 50 road closures, including State Highway 1 in several places and key arterial roads in the Coromandel and East Coast.

New Zealand’s North Island was in the firing line of Tropical Cyclone Gabrielle

Cyclone Gabrielle will continue to wreak destruction across North Island on Tuesday.

Red wind warnings remain in place for Auckland, Northland, the Coromandel and Taranaki, with gusts of up to 140km/h forecast.

Red rain warnings have been extended in Northland, the Coromandel and Hawke’s Bay.

A majority of the North Island, including Wellington and Napier, are under orange warnings for wind, suggesting up to 120km/h gusts, as is the northern region of South Island.

Some of the worst hit regions have been ordered to restrict their water use. 

‘Muriwai, Helensville & Wellsford customers, Please reduce your water use now. Please do not use your washing machine or dishwasher. Your local water treatment plants have been affected by power outages & your water storage reservoirs are running low,’ Watercare NZ warned.

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