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Cyclone Gabrielle Hits New Zealand, Government Declares National Emergency

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Cyclone Gabrielle hit New Zealand’s North region and flooded the area, leaving residents no option but to leave their homes and swim to safety elsewhere. 

On Tuesday morning, New Zealand’s Minister for Emergency Management, Kieran McAnulty, declared a national state of emergency and called the storm “an unprecedented weather event.” He declared a national emergency, the third in the country’s history, after the storm wreaked havoc in the country. 

In the North Island, the storm’s substantial damage included washed-away highways and bridges as well as flooded suburbs.

At least 225,000 people, according to officials, were without electricity on Tuesday.

The storm-affected regions of New Zealand, which include the country’s largest city, Auckland, are home to nearly a third of the country’s 5.1 million residents.

The coastal villages on the far north and east coast of the North Island have been hardest hit, with areas like Hawkes Bay, Coromandel, and Northland among the worst-hit.

On Monday night, Marcelle Smith and her two small children retreated inland to safer ground from their cliff-front home in Parua Bay on the east side of the North Island, she told the BBC.

She further said, “We are trying to do everything we can to protect what we have put our lives into. It’s man versus nature at this point.”

Her spouse had stayed behind to fortify the house with security measures. On Tuesday, they were still facing unpredictable weather, while several embankments that had been erected up had already been swept away.

According to local media, some Hawkes Bay residents were forced to swim out of their flooded homes by climbing through bedroom windows. People have been forewarned that they may go weeks without power.

People stuck on rooftops in flood-affected areas can be seen in aerial footage.

Trees that have been uprooted, bent street lights and poles, and endless rows of flooded homes show the extent of devastation that the storm and flood have caused. 

Flooding in New Zealand due to Cyclone Gabrielle
Flooding in New Zealand due to Cyclone Gabrielle

Two firefighters had also been caught in a landslide in Muriwai, west of Auckland, according to officials. Rescue organizations reported that one person was badly hurt and another was missing.

Over 100 people also left their homes to find shelter in the established evacuation centers in Auckland overnight, according to officials.

According to Prime Minister Chris Hipkins, the nation witnessed a difficult situation when it woke up. 

He committed NZ$11.5 million (US$7.3 million) in aid to help those impacted by the disaster.

Talking about the situation in a news conference, he said, “It has been a very big night for New Zealanders. [There are] a lot of families displaced, a lot of homes without power, extensive damage done across the country. It will take us a while to get our heads around what’s happened.”

The order makes it possible for the government to organize its reaction to the catastrophe and it is applicable to, The Northland, Auckland, Tairawhiti, Tararua, Bay of Plenty, Waikato, and Hawkes Bay regions.

Only twice has New Zealand previously proclaimed a national state of emergency: after the 2011 Christchurch earthquake and during the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The size of the catastrophe has been linked by the government to climate change.

Just two weeks after the region experienced catastrophic rainfall and flooding that resulted in the deaths of four people, Cyclone Gabrielle made landfall in New Zealand.

MetService, the nation’s meteorological office, reported on Tuesday that the first 45 days of 2023 saw Auckland receive roughly half of its annual rainfall.

According to the MetService, conditions are anticipated to improve over the next few days, and heavy rain advisories are being revoked for various regions of the nation. However, it has issued a warning that wind may cause more harm.

New Zealand’s Climate Change Minister James Shaw said, “This is a climate change-related event. The severity of it, of course, is made worse by the fact that our global temperatures have already increased by 1.1 degrees.”

“We need to stop making excuses for inaction. We cannot put our heads in the sand when the beach is flooding. We must act now,” he added. 

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