New Zealand cancels all flights as storm pummels the country

CHRISTCHURCH and other districts on the South Island of New Zealand declared a state of emergency this week as Cyclone Gita tore through the country, leaving many without power.

Air New Zealand has cancelled all flights in and out of the capital, Wellington, in the North Island.

"The full impact of the storm will be felt overnight and tomorrow morning", she said, urging residents of low-lying areas to evacuate.

New Zealand, which lies in the South Pacific Ocean to the southeast of Australia, has also seen a marine heatwave since October which has added strength to the force of the cyclone. For fruit growers in the region, flood waters and winds could cause concern at the start of the season.

The United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported that the Category 4 cyclone was the worst on record to hit Tonga. "We are expecting homes to be flooded".

"On a whole, we haven't suffered major damage, and many of our orchards have had little to no damage", he said.

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New Zealand Civil Defence warned people to expect flooding in the town's main street "over the next few hours". "This is not a good situation for those in seafront properties", he said.

The nation's parliament was destroyed by the storm, which caused extensive damage across the archipelago.

Transport authorities shut a stretch of highway along the east coast of the South Island and the Department of Conservation was closing seaside hiking tracks and campsites along the West Coast and ushering tourists away from low-lying areas, media said.

What is Cyclone Gita's status?

"It's actually getting faster", meteorologist Rob Kerr said.

  • Sonia Alvarado