New Zealand: One dead as Auckland hit by entire summer’s rainfall in hours

Auckland is “underwater” after deadly floods hit New Zealand’s largest city late on Friday night.

A state of emergency has been declared after almost an entire summer’s worth of rain hit in just hours.

“Clearly this is quite unprecedented,” said NZ Prime Minister Chris Hipkins.

The city’s international airport has closed after it was overrun with water leading to the terminal to be deluged. It’s thought 1000 passengers are stranded.

While cars – and even a house – have been seen floating away. Several people are feared to be trapped.

A man has been found dead in the suburb of Wairu Valley, on Auckland’s north shore, after a member of the public saw a body near a main road.

Entire summer’s rain in less than a day

Website WeatherWatch said it was an “unprecedented deluge” for Auckland with nearly 400mm falling in total is some places.

The National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research stated Auckland received 79 per cent of its average summer rainfall, 166mm, in 15 hours.

New Zealand’s MetService, the equivalent of the Bureau of Meteorology, has a “red” weather warning in place for Auckland. It has said a further 60 to 120mm of rain is possible amid “torrential downpours”. That’s in addition to the up to 250mm that has already fallen with 40-80mm coming down each hour.

The MetService reported that Auckland had exceeded the rainfall total for its wettest previous January.

“Until now, Auckland’s wettest January was in 1986 with 206mm, but already in January 2023 we have had an extraordinary 320mm of rain at Auckland Airport,” Lisa Murray, head of weather communications, told news website Stuff.

“In addition, it looks like Auckland is having its wettest month ever since records began. Even beating July 1998 when 304mm was recorded for that month.”

The torrential conditions are being caused by tropical warm air heading down towards New Zealand from the Tasman Sea and Queensland.

State of emergency

Auckland Mayor Wayne Brown has declared a state of emergency across the so called “super city” which encompasses all of its metro area. The region includes 1.7 million people, a similar population to all of South Australia

“This declaration reflects the extent of damage, displacement and disruption caused by this evening’s severe weather event and enables emergency services and response agencies to draw on resources, and enact additional powers, to assist affected Aucklanders,” Mr Brown said.

Newly installed Prime Minister Chris Hipkins said the Government was ready to help.

“All relevant government agencies are working flat out to help in an extraordinary set of circumstances,” he said on Twitter.

“The emergency response is underway and the Government is ready to assist as needed.”

The “Beehive Bunker,” the nation’s emergency response centre located within Parliament’s distinctive Beehive building in the capital Wellington, has been activated.

Airport terminal underwater

Auckland Airport has said there will be no flights before Saturday after dramatic images came in of the roads to the airport completely flooded with water which was also streaming into the terminal.

Passengers were seen pushing luggage trolleys through water at check in.

Mr Hipkins confirmed around 100 passengers were stranded at the sodden airport. He said it was possible many other people were trapped elsewhere in the city.

“I think clearly this is quite unprecedented.

“Aucklanders do need to be braced for the fact that there could be more rain in the next few hours.”

In the city’s west a house lifted up off its foundations with person trapped since, Water was said to be halfway up the windows.

On Friday night, Auckland’s Elton John concert had to be cancelled but not before scores of fans drove to the stadium where it was being held after they were advised to not take the train.

“It was far too dangerous,” to go on, the crowed were told at Mt Smart Stadium who had braved the conditions to find their sodden seats.

Areas of the city’s north and Ta Arai, close to Northland, are without power.

Susannah Shackel travelled from Wellington to attend the concert, and told Stuff it was “appalling” for it to be cancelled so late.

“We left at about six, we spent $140 on Uber. We get to the gate and they tell us it’s cancelled and to go home,” she said.

The MetService said the heaviest rain could ease overnight. However, flooding remained a threat with impassable roads and cut off communities.

Originally published as At least one dead as Auckland hit with entire summer’s rain in just hours

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