Gita blasts New Zealand; several districts declare emergency

by Garry Watts February 21, 2018, 3:28
Gita blasts New Zealand; several districts declare emergency

Dozens of schools have been shut and roads closed in the South Island as the storm made landfall on Tuesday.

Buller, Selwyn District, Grey District, Westland, Taranaki, Nelson Tasman and Christchurch have all declared a state of emergency.

Air New Zealand said all flights to the capital would be grounded from 2.45 pm as weather authorities issued warnings of severe weather and heavy rain.

Thousands of homes were without power Tuesday, and residents in Christchurch were asked to limit water consumption in light of the heavy rainfall overwhelming the city's wastewater system.

Most reported early Wednesday that the weather had not been as extreme as predicted, with the top of the South Island the worst-hit area.

The cyclone hit the Pacific islands of Fiji and Tonga last week, bringing with it winds of up to 171mph and causing massive damage and flooding.

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'We are expecting homes to be flooded'.

Gita, which was downgraded on Tuesday from a tropical cyclone to a storm, is already causing flooding in parts of the South Island with waves up to 7m (22ft) high. "This is not a good situation for those in seafront properties", he said.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said troops had fanned out to areas likely to be the hardest hit and the national Civil Defence office in Wellington was on standby to help.

Residents in low-lying areas had been urged to evacuate as security forces were deployed to areas most vulnerable to the expected 150 kph winds and torrential rains where trees, power lines and buildings could be damaged.

Flooding and heavy winds from ex-cyclone Gita have swept through New Zealand orchards overnight, during the start of the season for key apple growing regions.

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