Parts of New Zealand were bracing for further chaos Thursday after what the government called a "weather bomb" caused destruction across the north of the South Island.
Civil Defence Minister Chris Tremain flew to the town of Nelson Thursday morning after the area was hit by floods and many communities were cut off by rains that began Wednesday. However, his aircraft was unable to land because of the weather and came within 100 meters of the ground before returning to Wellington, Fairfax News reported. "I want to assess the damage firsthand, ensure Civil Defence is appropriately responding, and identify any way that government can further assist the region to protect life and property," said Tremain in a statement before leaving Wellington. The statement said the Nelson Region had been "heavily hit by a weather bomb with rainfall of up to 320mm in a 24 hour period". More 54 slips have occurred, dozens of roads have been closed, 150 people have reportedly been evacuated, and a State of Civil Emergency was declared late Wednesday by both Nelson and the neighboring Tasman Councils. Many homes had been deluged with mud and debris, forcing their occupants to flee. No injuries had been reported, according to the emergency services.
The New Zealand Police Thursday issued a statement warning Nelson and Tasman residents that emergency services might be unable to reach them if needed. "Police also advise people to be prepared for the possibility they may need to evacuate and have raincoats, torches and essential medications ready," said the statement. Radio New Zealand reported that many dairy farmers might have to dump several days worth of milk because slips had blocked or washed away roads, stopping milk tankers from collecting it. The rain clouds were moving northwards across the North Island, causing minor flooding in the country's largest city, Auckland, and other areas, according to the WeatherWatch website. Forecasters warned of possible flash floods, slips and rockfalls. "Flash flooding happens when a usually small stream, creek or drain turns into a raging torrent within minutes and can be deadly, " WeatherWatch head weather analyst Philip Duncan said in a statement. "This is expected in isolated pockets right up the western and northern coastlines of both islands." Radio New Zealand reported Thursday that flooding and slips had closed roads in the far north of the North Island too, after 100mm of rain had fallen since Wednesday and another 60mm was still forecast