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Wild weather lashes NZ

Thursday 24 March 2016 | Published in Regional


NEW ZEALAND – Nearly 200 tourists have been evacuated on the West Coast of New Zealand, and trees have brought down powerlines in Auckland, as wild weather lashes the country.

Heavy rain caused the Waiho River on the West Coast to breach its bank, the upper North Island has been hit by strong winds and MetService said the bad weather was expected to continue into the afternoon.

A severe thunderstorm watch is in place for Taranaki, Bay of Plenty, Great Barrier Island, the Coromandel and Gisborne.

Metservice earlier issued a heavy rain warning for the West Coast, and northern and western parts of the North and South Islands.

A local state of emergency was declared early this morning on the West Coast, after flooding forced the evacuation of nearly 200 people in Franz Josef as the Waiho River breached its bank near the town around midnight.

Heavy rain has also caused flooding in the Tasman District.

The Nelson Tasman Civil Defence said about 12 homes have been flooded, due to the Riwaka River overflowing.

Duty officer Roger Ball told Morning Report people have not been forced to evacuate yet, but some may have chosen to leave voluntarily.

He said there had been between 250 and 350 milimetres of rain over the hills during a short period of time.

Ball said there was water across properties and roads in the area.

The flooding has also caused the closure of State Highway 60 at Riwaka, and between Upper Takaka and Collingwood.

Further north, almost 13,000 customers are without power in Auckland because of stormy weather.

The biggest affected areas have been around Warkworth in the north, Waiheke Island and the eastern bays of the North Shore.

As many as 18,000 people were without power at the peak of the problem.

The Fire Service said it had attended about 60 calls in Auckland and Northland overnight, most of those in Auckland.

They included clearing trees from roads or power lines, calls to arching powerlines and helping to secure roofs that were lifting. There have been no reports of injury.

WeatherWatch analyst Philip Duncan said the overnight gales were not being caused by a storm.

“It’s one of those rare cases where the winds can be blamed on a very large high pressure system east of the country, rather than a storm or low moving in”.

Strong gusts of wind and lightning in the far north also left parts of the region without power last night.

Top Energy reported power outages and faults in the line between Towai and Kaitaia.

The company said on its message line last night that it was working to get lines back up and running.

Weatherwatch said a front was moving off the top of the South Island yesterday morning, while a southerly change was pushing northwards, bringing a cool change and showers to the South Island’s east coast.

Some heavy falls were also expected in Northland, Auckland, Waikato and Bay of Plenty, although these are expected to clear late yesterday afternoon or evening.