Storm lashes across New Zealand, killing three people and disrupting flights

(Bloomberg) – Auckland has been left reeling after an intense summer storm hit New Zealand’s largest city, killing three and prompting the international airport to suspend flights.

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A state of emergency is in place in the South Pacific city of about 1.6 million people after 6 inches of rain fell in just three hours on Friday night. That’s nearly triple the amount that would typically occur throughout January, research institute NIWA said in a Twitter post. It was also the wettest day on record in Auckland, the MetService said.

Prime Minister Chris Hipkins confirmed three people died in the floods and at least one other person is missing.

“Having just looked at some of the extensive damage both on the ground and in the air, it’s clear it’s going to be a big cleanup job,” Hipkins said at a news conference in Auckland after flying from Wellington on a Defense Force aircraft. “The loss of life only underscores the scale of this weather event and how quickly it became tragic.”

Hipkins also warned Aucklanders that more severe weather was expected.

Auckland Airport recorded a record 249mm of rain in 24 hours. The international and domestic terminals were closed and at least 2,000 travelers were stranded in the flooded buildings until the early hours of Saturday morning.

While domestic flights resumed on Saturday afternoon, the international terminal remains closed, with no departures expected before 5am local time on Sunday and no arrivals until 7am

“What we have found is that the overnight flooding significantly impacted a number of critical components of our airport terminal infrastructure,” said Carrie Hurihanganui, chief executive officer of Auckland Airport. “We worked urgently today to try and get everything dry, tested and working again, but our assessment is that we need more time to make sure everything is working well and, more importantly, safely, before resuming operations. international”.

The storm is the latest example of extreme weather events that have become increasingly common globally due to climate change and a third consecutive year of La Nina, something that has happened only twice since 1950.

The Auckland flooding has impacted the electricity grid and caused widespread outages, particularly in western Auckland, electricity company Vector said on Saturday. By late morning, nearly 23,000 homes and businesses had power restored, with around 3,500 still without power.

New Zealand’s MetService said the storm was caused by warm air flowing down from the tropics, bringing the “characteristic of heavy rain with built-in thunderstorms”. More rain is expected on Saturday.

The event inundated homes around Auckland and left cars floating along the streets, as emergency services went door-to-door in kayaks in the rescue efforts. Elton John’s concert at Mt Smart Stadium was cut short minutes before the singer was expected to take the stage, and his second Auckland show was canceled on Saturday.

–With the assistance of Muneeza Naqvi.

(Updates with commentary from Hipkins, Auckland Airport)

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