Auckland hunkers down as Cyclone Gabrielle nears

Flights suspended and schools closed as New Zealand’s biggest city braces for second major storm in as many weeks.

Huge waves crash into cliffs in Auckland. There is a walkway in front where a couple of people can be seen
People in Auckland have been asked to stay home unless they absolutely have to go out [Brett Phibbs/NZ Herald via AP]

Residents in Auckland, New Zealand’s biggest city, are hunkering down at home as they brace for heavy rain, flooding and gale-force winds from Cyclone Gabrielle.

People in the city and its surrounding areas were asked to stay home for all but essential trips as train services were cancelled, flights suspended, and libraries and most schools closed.

Gabrielle was about 250km (155 miles) northwest of New Zealand and is forecast to move close to the east coast over the next 24 hours.

“We expect the impacts of Cyclone Gabrielle to get, unfortunately, worse before they get better,” said Rachel Kelleher, deputy controller of Auckland Emergency Management, on Monday.

“It’s not the time to be complacent,” she added.

New Zealand Prime Minister Chris Hipkins on Monday announced a NZ$11.5 million ($7.25 million) package to support community groups such as food banks and to groups impacted by the floods.

The cyclone comes two weeks after a record-breaking storm swamped Auckland and killed four people.

States of emergency were in place in Auckland and at least five other regions.

The approaching storm has already brought down trees and damaged roofs, with power cut to 46,000 homes. Mobile phone services were also reported to be patchy in some areas.

Air New Zealand has cancelled 509 flights and said flights will resume on Tuesday when the weather is expected to improve.

Meteorologist Georgina Griffiths said overnight that Auckland and Great Barrier Island could see heavy rain and winds.

“I think parts of Auckland that have not yet seen challenging wind conditions are expected to see gales overnight,” she said.

“Storm surge is still coming and might peak with the high tide at 2am for eastern parts of Auckland.”

She added that given Auckland was already saturated, some localised landslides and surface flooding were expected.

Source: News Agencies