Torrential downpours and damaging winds battered New Zealand late on Wednesday and into Thursday, flooding parts of the South Island and causing power cuts on the North Island.

On the South Island, the Waiho River burst its banks in the tourist town of Franz Josef causing authorities to declare a state of emergency.

Westland Civil Defence spokesman, Andrew Thompson, told Reuters that around 186 tourists in Franz Josef had to spend the night in an emergency shelter.

Meanwhile, homes in the township of Riwaka, near Nelson, were also evacuated.

In the 24 hours up to 00:01 GMT on Thursday morning, Nelson recorded a massive 145mm of rain. That amounts to almost twice the March average of 75mm. Officials described the event as a once in 50-year occurrence.

On the North Island, New Zealand's largest city Auckland felt the brunt of severe gale force winds.

Gusts of up to 110km/h disrupted power supplies, leaving parts of the city littered with debris and up to 18,000 homes without power.

The winds eased later on Thursday. The last of any showers will clear on Friday to set up a fine and dry weekend filled with pleasant autumn sunshine.

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies