WELLINGTON, New Zealand — New Zealand declared a national state of emergency as severe weather battered the country on Tuesday.
Cyclone Gabrielle has caused widespread evacuations, power outages and damage to properties across large swathes of the North Island of New Zealand. A number of towns are completely isolated due to severe flooding and slips.
Minister for Emergency Management Kieran McAnulty said it was only the third time in the country's history the measure had been declared.
"This is an unprecedented weather event that is having major impacts across much of the North Island," McAnulty said.
"This is a significant disaster with a real threat to the lives of New Zealanders."
The national declaration allows the central government more powers to help manage and control an emergency. Previously it had been declared for the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and the Christchurch earthquakes of 2011.
Grave fears are held for a volunteer firefighter who is missing after a house collapsed when it was hit by a landslide near Auckland during Monday night.
Fire and Emergency chief executive Kerry Gregory said two firefighters were in the house at the time.
"One was rescued early this morning and is in a critical condition in hospital. The search for our second firefighter was suspended in the early hours of the morning due to the instability of the land."
Rescuers are awaiting a safety assessment before they can resume the search.
In late January four people died after torrential rain hit Auckland, New Zealand's largest city.
The city, home to some 1.6 million people, suffered it's wettest day on record with some 265 millimeters in one day.
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