The largest city in New Zealand, Auckland declared a state of emergency after torrential downpour caused widespread floods bringing normalcy to an abrupt halt.
Houses were swamped, airport flooded, traffic stalled and power cut everywhere as a result of the heavy rains. According to reports, Auckland received 75 per cent of its usual summer rainfall in just 15 hours.
The national forecaster said, “The impacts of the last 24 hours will be felt by many in Auckland for a long time.”
The city’s mayor, Wayne Brown confirmed reports on media that a body was found in Wairau Valley on Auckland’s North Shore. Brown said he is “deeply saddened” by the news. Local police are yet to confirm whether the death has been due to flooding.
He said that the infrastructure and emergency services have been “overwhelmed” by the impact of the storm. The Fire and Emergency New Zealand said in a statement that it had to deal with roughly 1,500 calls for assistance.
The evacuation and relief efforts are being facilitated by the New Zealand Defence Force across the city. Allegations have been leveled against the mayor that he was too slow in declaring a state of emergency. However, Brown defended himself saying he followed advice from experts.
Meanwhile, Green MP and Auckland resident Ricardo Menendez March was quoted by BBC as saying that the area in which he lived was flooded quickly and he had to evacuate, but was given shelter by a friend nearby.
He said, “There were people who were unfortunately not as lucky - low-income communities, disabled people, migrant communities as well.”
Several major roads have been blocked by the floods which have caused traffic congestions on highways with accidents also taking place. The floods have also disrupted travel to and from Auckland airport. Both domestic and international flights have been grounded until midday on Saturday at the least.
The newly appointed Prime Minister of New Zealand, Chris Hipkins tweeted saying that “Beehive Bunker” or the country’s parliament in Wellington has been helping with the coordination of the emergency response. He is expected to travel to Auckland today.
Moreover, the National Institute of Water an Atmospheric Research (NIWA) said that Friday was the wettest day on record for a number of locations in Auckland. Moreover, it predicted heavy rains in various parts of the city for at least the next five days.
In addition, March said, “It goes without saying that we need to have a conversation about how climate change is making these events more frequent and how cities like Auckland are massively underprepared.”
(With inputs from BBC)