State of emergency declared as Cyclone Gita hits New Zealand

February 21, 2018
Samaa Web Desk

NEWS DESK: A number of districts in New Zealand’s South Island have declared a state of emergency as the remains of Cyclone Gita pummel the country, reported The Independent with additional input by Reuters.

Heavy rains ahead of the storm’s arrival brought floods in Christchurch.

More than 40 schools were shut and roads were closed in preparation for the storm, while mayors urged people to stay at home.

New Zealand’s national airline cancelled all flights in and out of the capital, Wellington, as authorities issued warnings of severe weather and heavy rain and gusts of up to 93mph.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said troops had spread out to areas likely to be the hardest hit and the national Civil Defence office in Wellington was on standby to help.

“My message still to people is please look out for your local warnings and expect disruption to travel and please just be careful,” she told reporters at parliament.

Cyclone Gita hit the Pacific island nations of Fiji and Tonga last week with winds of up to 171mph. While Fiji escaped major damage, Tonga suffered widespread destruction and flooding. Earlier, the storm had caused extensive damage in Samoa and American Samoa.

The cyclone had since been downgraded to a storm, but forecasters said it was still likely to wreak havoc on Tuesday evening as it traversed the centre of New Zealand.

Parts of the country are still reeling from a huge storm that prompted authorities to declare states of emergency at the beginning of February.

Transport authorities shut a stretch of highway along the east coast of the South Island and the Department of Conservation was reportedly closing seaside hiking tracks and campsites along the West Coast and urging tourists to avoid low-lying areas.