22 July 2017

State of emergency declared in Christchurch as wild weather rages

New Zealand army steps in as storms cause chaos. Image: Otago Regional Council

NEW ZEALAND has declared a state of emergency in Christchurch amid a severe storm that has already resulted in hundreds of homes evacuated across the nation, highways cut and soldiers called in to help provide emergency services.

The New Zealand Defence Force mobilised additional troops overnight on Friday to help rescue those trapped by rising floods.

Christchurch declared the state of emergency after the Heathcote River burst its banks and flooded southern parts of the city on Saturday morning, becoming the fourth area to do so after the storm lashed the South Island during the past 24 hours, causing widespread flooding.

Local media reports about 1500 people in settlements further north were told to leave their homes as water levels rose overnight, while more than 100 homes were evacuated outside Dunedin, the South Island’s second-largest city.

Emergency services are now focused on the Taieri River near Dunedin after predictions it would rise to near-record levels on Saturday. As well as Christchurch and Dunedin, states of emergency are ongoing in Timaru and Otago.

New Zealand Prime Minister Bill English took to Twitter to address the nation on Saturday.

“My thoughts are with those affected by the weather events in the South Island. Please follow official advice and take care of each other,” he said.

The weather bureau said rivers in affected areas remained at very high levels on Saturday morning after some areas were hit with more than 200mm of rain in 24 hours — more than twice the July average.

It predicted rain should gradually ease throughout the day but cold temperatures and blizzard-like conditions could affect those at higher levels.

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