Storm whips New Zealand, three dead and run stalled

(Bloomberg) — Auckland is reeling after an intense summer storm ravaged New Zealand’s largest city, killing three people and prompting the international airport to halt flights.

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A state of emergency has been declared in the South Pacific city of about 1.6 million after a whopping 6 inches (153 mm) of rain fell in just three hours on Friday night. That is almost three times as much as normal for the whole of January, research institute NIWA reports in a message on Twitter. It was also Auckland’s wettest day on record, according to the MetService.

Prime Minister Chris Hipkins confirmed three people died in the flooding and at least one other person is missing.

“Having just surveyed some of the extensive damage both on the ground and in the air, it’s clear it’s going to be a major cleanup job,” Hipkins said at a press conference in Auckland after flying from Wellington on a Defense Force-based plane. “The loss of life underlines the magnitude of this weather event and how quickly it became tragic.”

Hipkins also warned Aucklanders that more bad weather was forecast.

Auckland Airport reported a record 249mm of rain in 24 hours. International and domestic terminals were closed and at least 2,000 travelers remained trapped in the flooded buildings into the wee hours of Saturday morning.

While domestic flights resumed on Saturday afternoon, the international terminal remains closed. There are likely to be no departures before 5am local time on Sunday and no arrivals until 7am.

“What we found is that the overnight flooding has had a significant impact on a number of critical components of our airport terminal infrastructure,” said Auckland Airport CEO Carrie Hurihanganui. “We worked urgently today to try and get everything dry, tested and working again, but our assessment is that we need more time to make sure everything is working properly and, more importantly, safe, before we resume international operations. to resume.”

The storm is the latest example of extreme weather events becoming more common worldwide due to climate change and the third consecutive year of La Nina – something that has happened only twice since 1950.

Auckland’s flooding affected the power grid and caused widespread outages, particularly in western Auckland, energy company Vector said on Saturday. By late morning, nearly 23,000 homes and businesses had power restored, while about 3,500 were still without electricity.

New Zealand’s MetService said the storm was caused by warm air descending from the tropics, bringing the “heavy rainfall with enclosed thunderstorms”. More rain is predicted on Saturday.

The event flooded homes around Auckland and sent cars drifting down the roads, while emergency crews went door-to-door on kayaks to rescue. Elton John’s concert at Mt Smart stadium was canceled just minutes before the singer was expected to take the stage, and his second show in Auckland was canceled on Saturday.

–With help from Muneeza Naqvi.

(Updates with commentary from Hipkins, Auckland Airport)

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