Ex-Cyclone Gita wreaks havoc in NZ

A STATE of emergency has been declared across large parts of New Zealand as locals are left stranded, tourists trapped and the military called in as ex-Cyclone Gita wreaks havoc across the country.

The powerful storm has caused widespread flooding and forced many Kiwis to evacuate their homes.

The storm system is the remnants of Cyclone Gita, which last week ripped through the Pacific nation of Tonga, destroying homes, churches and the historic Parliament House.

The winds have weakened as the storm, which has now split in two, has arced through the Pacific.

The military has been deployed to some New Zealand towns where the storm is expected to have the biggest impact.

Dozens of schools have been closed and power outages have affecting thousands of homes.

Christchurch residents were asked to keep showers short and delay washing clothes as the city's wastewater system came under pressure from rain flowing into it.

The meteorological agency MetService was predicting that severe gale-force winds with damaging gusts would continue through today and urged people to secure items that might be blown away.

It predicted waves could be as high as 6m in some places.

However New Zealand's South Island has "dodged a bullet" after battling with former Cyclone Gita.

Between midday Tuesday and 6am on Wednesday, local time, Fire and Emergency received 1300 call-outs, mainly for flooded homes, fallen power lines and trees, a spokeswoman said on today.

States of emergency were declared in Taranaki, Nelson/Tasman region, Selywn district, Grey district, Buller, Westland and Christchurch.

The top of the South was worst hit with heavy rain closing roads and causing flooding in the Tasman region.

But Buller Mayor Garry Howard said there was minimal damage to the district with only a few trees and "superficial stuff" affected.

"Things didn't eventuate as bad as we were expecting," he said.

 

Kaikoura was hit with heavy rain, closing both the coastal highway and inland route but Mayor Winston Gray said on Wednesday morning the "sun is shining."

He said there was no damage to the township itself.

"We've really dodged a bullet."

Tasman mayor Richard Kempthorne said they had been concerned about coastal inundation but were fortunate they did not have a very high tide.

A state of emergency remained in place in Nelson on Wednesday morning and more than 130 people had spent the night welfare centres in Takaka and Motueka after escaping flooding.

Eighty were later escorted home in Takaka on Tuesday night, while 53 spent the night at the Motueka welfare centre.

Former cyclone Gita should continue to move away from the country, the MetService said.

However, heavy rain was expected to continue in Dunedin and North Otago until late afternoon.

But all wind warnings associated with Gita were now lifted.

A massive charity effort is now underway with Australian families raising funds to help parts of Tonga which were severely devastated by the storm. To contribute visit: https://tongacyclone.wordpress.com/



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