18 June, 2024
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NZ search for cyclone missing goes on – as more rain looms


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The number of people missing in New Zealand’s Hawkes Bay following Cyclone Gabrielle is in single figures, search and rescue officials say, 10 days after the worst storm to hit the country in decades tore through the region.

It came as forecasters warned of another deluge bound for some of the hardest-hit areas – with the possibility of another cyclone forming.

New Zealand’s main weather forecaster MetService said a 48-hour deluge was expected in cyclone-devastated Hawke’s Bay and Gisborne, with heavy rain also likely in other parts of the North Island.

“MetService is concerned for vulnerable areas like Esk Valley and the Wairoa District, given that 150 to 200 millimetres in those areas could have significant impacts given slash and silt through the area,” meteorologist Amy Rossiter said on Thursday.

Local authorities have already warned people to be ready to evacuate and to be wary of rivers in flood-damaged areas.

Elsewhere, a meteorologist for New Zealand’s National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research, Ben Noll, said there was an elevated risk of another cyclone forming next week.

“We have been watching this potential for this feature since Gabrielle came down,” he said.

“What we’re seeing in the first 10 days of March is an increased risk for cyclone formation.

“That’s definitely something for Kiwis, especially those in the North Island, to keep a very close eye on the forecast. It’s not imminent or immediate but it may be something we’re going to have to face in the first 10 days of March.”

Gabrielle killed at least 11 people and caused widespread damage across the North Island, hitting the farming, wine and fruit-growing Hawke’s Bay on the east coast particularly hard.

Hawke’s Bay Urban Search and Rescue team leader Ken Cooper told TVNZ’s Breakfast search and rescue conditions were arduous.

“It’s something that I’ve never seen before – very challenging for our search crews and the community,” he said.

“However, it’s the responsibility of our crews and we’ll carry out those searches to the best of our ability.”

As of Thursday morning, “we are down to single figures” in terms of the numbers of people still unaccounted for in Hawke’s Bay, he said.

USAR teams and police and dog units were searching several remote communities on Thursday, Mr Cooper said.

New Zealand Police said on Thursday there were 152 people across the country who had been reported as unable to be contacted, down from more than 5000, as communications were gradually restored.

-with AAP

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