Recovery efforts continue in hard-hit areas of New Zealand after Cylcone Gabrielle caused chaos, leaving at least six people dead and displacing 10,000 people in the country’s most damaging storm in decades.
Gabrielle, which hit New Zealand on Sunday before making its way down the east coast of the North Island, cut off entire towns, washed away farms, bridges and livestock, and inundated homes, stranding people on rooftops.
The death toll rose to six overnight, after a second volunteer firefighter, Craig Stevens, died in hospital after being caught in a landslide near Auckland earlier in the week.
Authorities are warning that the country needs to prepare for the death toll to rise.
Communication and access to a number of areas remain difficult and surveillance flights are being undertaken to survey the damage and identify those who may be isolated. Convoys of trucks carrying essential items such as food, water, medicine and fuel are making their way into remote areas and the defence force is using ships to transport needed items into areas of the east coast.
Kiri Allan, minister of regional development who also lives in one of the most badly affected areas, told New Zealand television network 1News that supermarkets were now better stocked, supplies had been reaching some of the most isolated communities and the phone network was even returning in small areas.
“Huge infrastructure challenges ahead of us. Once we get through this immediate response we will get a great toll in terms of the cost and what we need to do,” she said.
In Hawke’s Bay helicopters and boats were still going out to check on people in isolated communities while search and rescue teams were continuing to operate.
The weather has started to improve. Meteorological service MetService said they no longer have any weather warnings in place in New Zealand and sunshine was forecast for most of the North Island. – Reuters