A clean-up operation is now underway in Christchurch after the worst storm in almost 40 years blasted its way across central parts of New Zealand. Power was cut to hundreds of homes as emergency services were called in to rescue motorists and also to sandbag businesses.

Canterbury was badly affected, and there have been mudslides as well as flashfloods across the region. The Fire Service was inundated with nearly 200 calls from residents reporting damage to their homes.

The port town of Lyttelton which is a suburb of Christchurch, on the eastern coast of the South Island, reported 160mm of rain in only 24 hours. As a result 19 households were evacuated as the torrential rain blocked transport links.

The downpours caused a 10 metre landslip near the end of the Wellington Airport runway. The heavy rain was accompanied by violent winds. Wind gusts as high as 119kph were recorded in exposed areas in and around the Wellington area.

Around 3,500 customers remain without power, but the storm weather is now easing. The airport in Christchurch did manage to stay open, but there is a severe backlog due to delays in other parts of the country.

KiwiRail is also clearing a backlog after ferry crossings were suspended due to high waves across the Cook Strait. Wind warnings currently remain in place for Wellington, The Wairarapa and coastal Hawkes Bay, but are expected to be lifted by Thursday morning.

Source: Al Jazeera