Three people have died after record-breaking rainfall pounded New Zealand’s largest city, Auckland.
Authorities said Saturday that three people had died and at least one was missing after record levels of rainfall pounded New Zealand’s largest city, causing widespread disruption.
Prime Minister Chris Hipkins flew to Auckland on a military plane after a state of emergency was declared in the region.
“Our priority is to ensure that Aucklanders are safe, that they’re housed and that they have access to the essential services that they need,” Hipkins said.
He said the city was in for a big cleanup and that people should remain indoors if possible. He said a break in the weather could prove temporary, with more heavy rain forecast.
“This is an unprecedented event in recent memory,” Hipkins said.
Friday was the wettest day ever recorded in Auckland, according to weather agencies, as the amount of rain that would typically fall over the entire summer hit in a single day. On Friday evening, more than 15 centimetres of rain fell in just three hours in some places.
The rain closed highways and poured into homes. Hundreds of people were stranded at Auckland Airport overnight after it stopped all flights and parts of the terminal were flooded.
Police said they found one man’s body in a flooded culvert and another in a flooded car park. They said fire and emergency crews found a third body after a landslide brought down a house in the suburb of Remuera. One person remained missing after being swept away by floodwaters, police said.
Fire and Emergency New Zealand said crews had responded to more than 700 incidents across the region, and staff had taken more than 2,000 emergency calls.
Air New Zealand said it resumed domestic flights in and out of Auckland on Saturday afternoon but wasn’t sure when international flights would resume.
“The flooding has had a huge impact on our Auckland operations,” said David Morgan, the airline’s chief operational integrity and safety officer. “We’re working on getting customers to their final destinations and getting our crew and aircraft back in the right place. It might take a few days to get everything back on track.”
In a series of updates on Twitter, Auckland Airport said people could leave the airport early Saturday for their homes or accommodation after hundreds spent the night in the terminal.
“It’s been a long and challenging night at Auckland Airport. We thank everyone for ongoing patience,” the airport wrote.
“Unfortunately, due to earlier flooding in the baggage hall, we are currently unable to return checked luggage to you,” the airport wrote. “Your airline will make arrangements for its return at a later time.”