WELLINGTON (AFP) – Tens of thousands of homes in New Zealand were without power and hundreds of flights were cancelled yesterday as a tropical storm lashed the north of the country.
A state of emergency was declared in five regions on the North Island, covering almost one-third of New Zealand’s entire population of 5.1 million.
Although the storm was downgraded from a cyclone before it made landfall, high winds and torrential rains have already toppled trees, damaged roads and downed power lines.
Wellington-based Prime Minister Chris Hipkins was among thousands stuck in the northern city of Auckland after the wild weather grounded flights.
“Things will get worse before they get better,” Hipkins told New Zealanders in a press conference yesterday, calling for them to “be prepared, stay inside if you can”.
He said the government had considered declaring a national state of emergency for only the third time in the country’s history – but it was not yet necessary.
The government announced an aid package of NZD11.5 million to help recovery efforts.