Cyclone Gabrielle Leaves New Zealand in State of Emergency with Three Dead

New Zealand has declared a state of emergency as Cyclone Gabrielle battered the country's North Island for days, with Prime Minister Chris Hipkins describing it as a weather event not seen "in a generation". The severe weather led to the deaths of at least three people, with many others displaced or left without power. Falling trees have smashed homes and landslides have blocked roads. The storm's damage was most extensive in coastal communities, with areas like Hawke's Bay, Coromandel, and Northland among the worst hit. Authorities say they cannot cope with the scale of the damage, and both Australia and the UK have pledged to help.

Storm Damage Widespread and Severe

Cyclone Gabrielle weakened on Wednesday and moved away from the North Island, but many people remain displaced. Some were forced to swim from their homes to safety after rivers burst their banks. Others were rescued from rooftops. A quarter of a million people are without power, and some have been warned they could be without it for weeks. The storm's damage has been widespread and severe, with uprooted trees, bent street lights and poles, and row after row of flooded homes. Pictures of flooded regions showed people stranded on rooftops waiting for rescue.

State of Emergency Declared

The national state of emergency declared by the government on Tuesday enables it to streamline its response to the disaster. It has been applied to the Northland, Auckland, Tairawhiti, Tararua, Bay of Plenty, Waikato, and Hawke's Bay regions. New Zealand has only previously declared a national state of emergency on two occasions - during the start of the Covid-19 pandemic and following the 2011 Christchurch earthquake. The government has attributed the scale of the disaster to climate change, with climate change minister James Shaw urging immediate action.

Pledges of Aid and Support

Hipkins has pledged NZ$11.5m (£6m; US$7.3m) in aid to support those affected by the disaster. He said, "We are still building a picture of the effects of the cyclone as it continues to unfold. But what we do know is the impact is significant and it is widespread." Marcelle Smith, whose family lives in a cliff-front property in Parua Bay, told local media she had fled inland with her two young children on Monday night while her husband remained behind to set up protections for their home. "We are trying to do everything we can to protect what we have put our lives into. It's man versus nature at this point," she said.