3 dead, 1 missing as rain pounds New Zealand’s largest city

Three people have been killed and at least one is missing after record rainfall battered New Zealand’s largest city, authorities said on Saturday.

Prime Minister Chris Hipkins flew a military jet to Auckland after a state of emergency was declared in the region.

“Our priority is to make sure Oaklanders are safe, housed and have access to the essential services they need,” Hipkins said.

He said a major cleanup was underway in the city and people should stay indoors if possible. He said the break in the weather may be temporary as more rain is forecast.

“This is an unprecedented event in recent memory,” Hipkins said.

According to weather agencies, Friday was Auckland’s wettest day on record, with the average amount of rain falling in one day throughout the summer. More than 15 centimeters (6 inches) of rain fell in just three hours on Friday night.

The rain closed highways and poured into homes. Hundreds of people were stranded at Auckland Airport overnight after the airport grounded all flights and flooded part of the terminal.

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Police said they found the body of one man in a flooded culvert and another in a flooded parking lot. They said one person was missing after being swept away by the flood, while another was missing after a landslide toppled a house in the suburb of Remuera.

Hipkins later said three people were confirmed dead and at least one was still missing. According to him, electricity has been restored in most places, although about 3,500 houses remained without electricity.

A video posted online shows chest-deep water in some areas.

Lawmaker Ricardo Menéndez posted a video showing water rushing into a home. “We just had to evacuate our home because the water was already rising fast and pushing aggressively,” he tweeted.

New Zealand said crews responded to more than 700 incidents across the region, with workers handling more than 2,000 emergency calls.

“We had every possible career and volunteer team responding to the most serious incidents,” said District Manager Brad Mosby.

Mosby said crews rescued 126 people who were trapped in homes or cars or involved in vehicle accidents.

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Air New Zealand said it had resumed domestic flights to and from Auckland on Saturday afternoon, but was not yet sure when international flights would resume.

“The flooding has had a huge impact on our operations in Auckland,” said David Morgan, the airline’s chief operational integrity and safety officer. “We work to get customers to their final destination and get the crew and aircraft back to where they need to be.” It may take a few days to get things back to normal.

In a series of Twitter updates, Auckland Airport said people were able to leave the airport early Saturday for their homes or accommodation, after hundreds of people spent the night in the terminal.

“It’s been a long and difficult night at Auckland Airport, thanks to everyone for your patience,” the airport wrote.

“Unfortunately, due to previous flooding in the baggage hall, we are unable to return your checked baggage at this time,” the airport wrote. “Your airline will take care of the refund later.

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The storm also canceled Elton John’s concert shortly before it was due to start on Friday night. John’s second concert scheduled for Saturday night at the stadium was also canceled.

Around 40,000 people are expected to attend each concert at Mt Smart Stadium. There were already thousands of people at the venue on Friday night when organizers decided to cancel the event shortly before John was due to take the stage at 7.30pm.

Many concertgoers who defied the conditions were disappointed that a decision had not been made hours earlier.

Auckland Mayor Wayne Brown defended criticism that his office had misrepresented the seriousness of the situation and delayed declaring a state of emergency until 9.30pm on Friday.

He said that the timing of the declaration of emergency was guided by experts.

“We’re going to review everything that happened,” Brown said. “We need to ensure that the coordination and consultation with the public is correct.


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