Auckland floods: New Zealand ‘beset’ by record downpours and massive flooding
New Zealand’s largest city, Auckland, was ‘knocked out’ on Friday by a record downpour that prompted more than 2,000 emergency calls, more than 700 incidents in the area and left at least three people dead and two others missing .
The wettest day on record in the city, which 1.6 million people call home, led to the declaration of a state of emergency.
The downpour caused flooding in many areas and reached the city’s international airport, leaving hundreds of people stranded inside terminals overnight and widespread flight cancellations.
At least 3,500 homes were left without power and an Elton John concert which 40,000 people were supposed to attend on Friday and Saturday was canceled, angering impatient fans who said an emergency should have been declared earlier .
It also forced new Prime Minister Chris Hipkins to make an unscheduled stop in the city to visit flood-affected homes.
Rain that typically fell in a summer fell in a single day, weather agencies said of Friday’s downpour. Agencies said it was the heaviest rain Auckland had ever seen in recorded history, the Associated Press reported.
More than 15 cm or six inches of rain fell in just three hours in some areas, closing highways and causing flooding in the north, northwest and west of the city.
“This is an unprecedented event in recent memory,” Mr. Hipkins said.
“The level of devastation in some areas is considerable,” he told reporters.
The prime minister said three people had been killed. One body was found in a flooded culvert and another inside a flooded parking lot.
Police said they were looking for a man who was taken away, while another was missing.
The crisis at Auckland Airport was revealed through his official Twitter account in which he revealed how officials transported people from various areas of the airport to the public area, provided food and drink and said checked baggage could not be returned in time as the entire baggage hall was flooded.
Domestic flights were canceled but resumed operations at noon on Saturday while international ground flights are scheduled to take off at noon a day later.
Twelve international flights had been hijacked overnight.
Auckland Airport recorded 249mm (9.8in) in the 24 hours to 9am on Saturday, beating the 1985 high of 161.8mm, Reuters reported.
However, the rain died down on Saturday and boosted clean-up operations.
“Auckland was knocked out on Friday – Auckland’s wettest day on record – and today we start the cleanup,” said Andrew Clark, the duty controller for Auckland’s emergency management and told the residents to be cautious as they inspect the damage to their homes.
The rain was caused by warm air descending from the tropics, bringing heavy rain and thunderstorms, according to the agency.
Another round of rain, however, is still possible on Sunday, according to the National Meteorologist, who added that the impact was “expected to be severe and wide-ranging due to saturated ground.”
“Further flooding will occur in many parts of the north in the coming days,” he said.
Footage of the devastation on social media showed boats deployed and officials rescuing people.
Lawmaker Ricardo Menéndez posted a video on his Twitter feed.
“We just had to evacuate our house because the water was already rising quickly and coming in aggressively. We ended up with someone’s dog for a while before leaving. Thinking of all the residents who have been affected by today’s floods,” he said.
Meanwhile, spectators at the now-cancelled Elton John shows were angry with the town’s mayor for declaring an emergency late in the evening and just before he took the stage at 7:30 p.m., because they had braved the weather to reach the room.
Mayor Wayne Brown, however, defended the decision and said the timing was dictated by experts.
Additional reports by agencies
The Independent Gt