New Zealand’s Auckland starts clean-up after deadly flash floods

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AUCKLAND – The authorities in New Zealand’s biggest city, Auckland, began mopping up on Saturday after torrential rains brought flash flooding and evacuations, with at least three people confirmed dead and one still missing in the widespread inundation.

A state of emergency remained in place in the city of 1.6 million people on New Zealand’s north island as the rains eased after Friday’s flooding in the north, north-west and west.

Prime Minister Chris Hipkins, less than a week in office, flew by helicopter over Auckland before touring flood-hit homes.

“The level of devastation in some areas is considerable,” Mr Hipkins told reporters, describing the event as “unprecedented” in recent memory.

Daylight revealed the impact of the storm, caused by warm air descending from the tropics, sparking heavy rain and thunderstorms, said Auckland Emergency Management, part of the city’s council.

“Auckland was clobbered on Friday – Auckland’s wettest day on record – and today we start the clean-up,” the agency’s duty controller, Mr Andrew Clark, said in a statement, urging caution for residents returning home to survey flood damage.

While heavy rain had eased, another period of downpours was possible on Sunday, the national weather forecaster said.

Showers were “dotted around Auckland” with some heavy rain west of the city, Auckland Emergency Management tweeted, while warning residents to “stay safe” amid the emergency.

“We’re not out of this yet. Heavy rain returns tomorrow,” the agency wrote on the social media platform.

Two men were found dead, New Zealand Police said. A search was under way for a man believed swept away, while another person was unaccounted for after a landslide hit a house in an inner Auckland suburb, police said.

More than 2,000 calls for assistance and 70 evacuations were made around the city, the New Zealand Herald reported.

City rainfall records were broken, with Auckland Airport logging 249mm in the 24 hours to 9am on Saturday, beating the 1985 high of 161.8mm.

Some local flights resumed at Auckland Airport, which closed domestic and international operations on Friday.

Air New Zealand said 12 of its international flights due into Auckland were diverted overnight.

On Friday, social media showed firefighters, police and defence force staff rescuing stranded people from flooded homes using ropes and rescue boats.

The flooding forced cancellations of British pop star Elton John’s concerts in the city, which were scheduled for Friday and Saturday nights. REUTERS

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