Third Time in History: New Zealand declares national emergency over Cyclone Gabrielle
In the third such alert in its history, New Zealand declared Tuesday a state of emergency due to Cyclone Gabrielle, which is hitting the country’s north, just weeks after Auckland and surrounding areas endured torrential downpours and flooding which killed at least four people.
More than 38,000 homes were without power on Tuesday morning. Authorities in New Zealand’s largest city, Auckland, earlier evacuated people from 50 homes around a high tower that could potentially collapse, local media reported. A number of evacuation centres have also been set up in the area.
The Minister for Emergency Management, Kieran McAnulty, has described the storm as “an unprecedented weather event”.
He signed the national declaration into place Tuesday morning. The state of emergency will apply to the Northland, Auckland, Tairawhiti, Bay of Plenty, Waikato, and Hawkes Bay regions. In addition to giving the government more power to respond to critical situations, including imposing travel restrictions, the declaration would streamline the government’s response to the disaster and provide additional resources to those affected.
Prime Minister Chris Hipkins announced a $7.3 million aid package on Monday.
A landslide at Auckland’s west coast beach settlement Muriwai has critically injured a firefighter, while the second one is still missing. Search operations had to be called off after conditions became too dangerous.
Local media are publishing videos and photographs of roads under water, of houses swept to the bottom of hills by landslides, and of people sitting on top of buildings surrounded by flood water. It’s too early to estimate how many people had been injured or displaced, Hipkins mentioned. No casualties have so far been confirmed.
The cyclone is expected to continue bringing severe weather to northern and central parts as it moved southeast, roughly parallel to the coast.
The other couple of times New Zealand had declared a national emergency was when the Covid-19 pandemic hit in 2020 and after an earthquake in 2011.