Air New Zealand cancels flights as South Island hit by storm

22 February, 2018, 01:13 | Author: Diane Mills
  • The wind wand in New Plymouth as the storm hits

New Zealand is being battered by cyclone Gita after the tropical storm devastated the Pacific island nations of Fiji and Tonga last week.

Air New Zealand said all flights to the capital would be grounded from 2.45 pm as weather authorities issued warnings of severe weather and heavy rain.

New Zealand's Met Service said the biggest wind gusts so far had been recorded in the Taranaki region, with 81mph over the town of Hawera. Waves up to six metres high are predicted.

Gita has now passed over New Zealand and is to the east of the Kaikoura coast in the South Pacific Ocean, according to weather maps.

An assessment led by the Government of Tonga this week in Tongatapu and Eua Islands, reported that at least 129 classrooms in 83 primary and secondary schools were damaged in the cyclone, affecting an estimated 25,000 school students.

Tairawhiti Civil Defence and Emergency's Paul Stuart said the district was under a MetService strong wind watch from 7pm tonight to 2am in the morning.

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Nelson City Council communications manager Paul Shattock told local media the military had been deployed in Takaka and was helping to get people to safety.

"Our personnel have been working very hard throughout the past 24 hours".

"We understand the worst of it will come tonight".

In Christchurch, a city still rebuilding following a devastating natural disaster in 2011, the council said the wastewater system was "coming under pressure due to infiltration and inflow from the rain during the storm".

The Takaka Hill road, State Highway 60, remains closed with Civil Defence saying it will be several days until the road can be reopened to one lane.

Cyclone Gita has caused flooding, damaged roads and isolated thousands of people in New Zealand's popular tourist destination Golden Bay.

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