New Zealand city comes to a standstill as cyclone deluge looms

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — Auckland residents hunkered down Monday as they braced for a downpour from Cyclone Gabrielle, two weeks after a record-breaking storm inundated New Zealand’s largest city and killed four people.

Much of Auckland came to a halt as rail services were cancelled, libraries and most schools were closed, and authorities asked people to take only essential journeys.

Air New Zealand has canceled all domestic flights to and from Auckland through Tuesday morning, as well as many international flights. Some international routes will continue to operate, the airline said, although they may need to be rerouted from Auckland. The carrier has also canceled domestic flights to and from the cities of Hamilton, Tauranga and Taupo.

In all, Air New Zealand has canceled more than 500 flights. More than 10,000 international customers have been affected, the airline said, with thousands still to be rebooked.

The cyclone, which was moving south, dumped more than 220 millimeters (9 inches) of rain in areas of north Auckland, cutting power to around 58,000 households and forcing many roads to close.

About 46,000 homes were left without electricity on Monday afternoon.

Authorities have declared a state of emergency in Northland, Auckland and some other regions and have asked some residents in low-lying areas to evacuate.

Prime Minister Chris Hipkins said the weather had made the start of the year “incredibly challenging” for people in Auckland and other northern areas.

“The extreme weather event came on the heels of an extreme weather event,” Hipkins said. “For families and businesses, I know it’s just been exhausting and I want to recognize how many of them are doing it.”

Gabrielle was supposed to be in Auckland overnight on Monday. Her wind speed was reduced as gusts reduced to approximately 130 kilometers per hour (80 miles per hour).

MetService meteorologist said there was a very high likelihood of “extreme, impactful and unprecedented weather” in many regions, with heavy rains, high winds and big waves.

With Hipkins and some other lawmakers unable to travel from Auckland to the capital, Wellington immediately, some events scheduled for this year’s opening session of Parliament have been rescheduled, including Hipkins’ statement outlining his priorities for the year, which has been moved from Tuesday to Wednesday .

Two weeks ago, Aucklanders experienced the wettest day on record in the city, as the amount of rain that would normally fall over an entire summer hit in a single day.

The rapidly increasing floodwaters and landslides killed four people, caused widespread disruption and rendered hundreds of homes unlivable.

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