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Hundreds of families evacuated after floods hit New Zealand’s South Island

A state of emergency was declared in three parts of New Zealand’s South Island on Wednesday due to flash flooding caused by incessant rain. Hundreds of families were forced to leave their homes on Thursday due to the situation. The Met Department described the weather activity as an “atmospheric river” from the north, which dumped more than 30 centimeters of rain on parts of the South Island. River banks burst due to this extreme weather activity and also downed trees, blocking major roads.

About 233 homes were evacuated in Buller on the west coast and Nelson, where a state of emergency was declared after a month of rain fell in just 15 hours.

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Video footage showed flooded rivers, with water gushing over the roads. Nelson’s main river, the Maitai, turned into a torrent and search and rescue teams were seen using lifeboats to check flooded areas. City Mayor Rachel Reese described the flash flood as a “once in 100 year event”. She warned residents to treat all water as contaminated, as some sewers had burst.

Nelson resident Sam Lagrutta said the situation was “scary” after police gave him just five minutes to leave his home. “I literally grabbed a hand luggage and stuffed it with my passport, my wallet and whatever else of importance I could find,” he told the New Zealand Herald.

Expecting a similar deluge on Friday, 160 households along the west coast of the South Island were also told to evacuate.

“Time to catch your breath and get ready for what’s next…don’t get rid of those sandbags just yet!” Buller Emergency Management published on Facebook.

Buller has been hit by repeated flooding in recent years. Mayor Jamie Cleine said the frequent evacuations were weighing on a community that was bracing for further flooding.

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“It’s extremely troubling for people financially and mentally. It’s our reality until a long-term solution can be put in place,” he told the Stuff website.

Meanwhile, Emergency Management Minister Kieran McAnulty was due to visit Nelson on Thursday.

The North Island also experiences poor weather conditions. Three people have been injured in a car crash in Northland after a tree fell on State Highway One.

(With agency contributions)

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Post expires at 11:38am on Saturday August 27th, 2022