Auckland hit by severe flood,declares state of emergency

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New Zealand’s largest city, Auckland, has declared a state of emergency due to the widespread flooding caused by relentless rain. Rescue teams are searching for a high school student who went missing in a flooded cave north of the city. The heavy rainfall has filled basements, stranded cars, toppled trees, and disrupted rail services. The same area was hit by record rainfall in January and Cyclone Gabrielle a month later. The torrential rains are expected to last until Wednesday evening local time.

Auckland Deputy Mayor Desley Simpson told reporters that a state of emergency was declared as a precaution and disaster response services have been mobilized. She described the flooding as an “evolving emergency situation”. The New Zealand Meteorological Service’s Georgina Griffiths said that the Auckland region received 90% of its average total annual rainfall from January to April, with some areas receiving up to 35mm of rain in just one hour.

Rescue teams were dispatched to Abbey Caves, about 2.5 hours drive north of Auckland, in search of a missing student whose classmates made it out of the flood-prone cave safely. Police Superintendent Tony Hill said, “Our thoughts are with the whanau (family) of the missing child, as well as all those involved in the group outing and the school.”

Authorities advised people to postpone unnecessary travel and avoid driving on flooded streets. Images on local media showed people rushing out of office buildings to go home early, causing traffic jams in some parts of the city.

Cyclone Gabrielle ravaged New Zealand in mid-February, leaving 11 people dead and a trail of devastation. Finance Minister Grant Robertson likened the damage to that wrought by the Christchurch earthquake 12 years ago. The cyclone hit just weeks after torrential rains and flooding left four dead and parts of Auckland’s main airport submerged.

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