There was no respite from flooding for New Zealand as Cyclone GABRIELLE hit the country just after weeks of non-stop rain. On 27 January, heavy rains and flooding hit many parts of the North Island, severely affecting Auckland. On 29 January, domestic and international flight operations were suspended at the Auckland Airport due to flooding of the building.
The unstable weather continued until early February. People in flood-prone areas were forced to evacuate their homes. The landslides and floods claimed the lives of four people. A state of local emergency was declared in Auckland, Waitomo District, Northland, and Thames-Coromandel District. However, the orders were later lifted in Waitomo and Northland. The emergency was declared to manage risks such as landslips and flooding caused by the intense rainfall.
Multiple roads and highways, including the SH25A in Thames-Coromandel, were closed due to flooding and traffic congestion. Days after these unprecedented floods ravaged the country, cyclone GABRIELLE wreaked more havoc, hampering recovery efforts!
GABRIELLE is considered to be the worst disaster to affect New Zealand this century, causing severe damage across the country. On 12 February, the cyclone hit the upper North Island, bringing heavy rain and damaging winds through 14 February in Northland, Auckland, Coromandel Peninsula, Bay of Plenty, Gisborne, Hawke’s Bay, Wairarapa, Taranaki, Whanganui, Wellington, and Marlborough. Wind gusts of at least 130 to 140 kilometers per hour and rainfall of 300 to 400 millimeters or more struck the region. Residents in low-lying areas of coastal regions were evacuated.
Localized states of emergency were declared in many areas. On 9 February, Auckland and Coromandel extended their existing declaration of a state of emergency while a pre-emptive state of emergency was declared in Northland on 12 February. On 13 February, the order was issued in Gisborne, the Bay of Plenty, Waikato, Ōpōtiki, Whakatāne, and Hauraki districts as well. On 14 February, Hawke’s Bay declared a regional state of emergency, and the Napier, Hastings, and Tararua Districts announced local states of emergency. Later that day, for just the third time in its history, a National State of Emergency was declared in New Zealand.
Domestic and international flight operations were suspended at Auckland Airport and over 821 flights were canceled by Air New Zealand due to high winds. Flight operations gradually resumed in the country on 15 February.
Cyclone GABRIELLE has caused extensive damage to North Island and rescue efforts are underway. The military and emergency services have been using helicopters to drop vital supplies in areas that have been cut off. There are power outages and damage to roads and communication systems. On 18 February, around 62,000 homes nationwide were without electricity. It is informed that it may take several weeks to restore power in these areas. By 19 February, there were already 11 fatalities, and thousands of people were still missing.
It is feared that there could be more deaths. Shortages in food and water are also expected due to the cyclone. Prime Minister Hipkins said that New Zealand is now considering aid offers from the US and other nations after first rejecting them.