The New Zealand government has declared a National State of Emergency for just the third time in history as Cyclone Gabrielle causes widespread flooding, landslides, and huge ocean swells across the North Island.
Kieran McAnulty, the Minister for Emergency Management, said in a statement on Tuesday that widespread damage caused by this cyclone means a national declaration was needed to support those impacted.
"This is an unprecedented weather event that is having major impacts across much of the North Island," said Mr. McAnulty.
A National State of Emergency has only been declared on two previous occasions— following the 6.3 quake in Christchurch in 2011 and in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Gabrielle had been sitting 100 km (62 miles) northeast of Auckland over some small islands but was now moving southwest. Meteorological organization MetService said the worst of the rain had passed for Auckland but it will start to have more of an impact further south.
The cyclone has brought heavy rain, flooding, and gale-force winds across the North Island and forced the evacuation of many beach settlements. Evacuation centers have been set up across the North Island. Many people are without electricity, roads are closed and some towns are entirely cut off.
Local media has photos of people sitting on top of buildings surrounded by flood waters, of houses at the bottom of hills following landslides and of roads under water.
New Zealand fire and emergency confirmed that a volunteer firefighter remains inside a house after it slid down a hill in a beachside town near Auckland. A second firefighter was rescued and is in critical condition in hospital.
A New Zealand navy vessel is making its way to a yacht that turned on its emergency beacon this morning off the east coast of the country.
"This has been and continues to be a serious and significant event for our region,” said Rachel Kelleher, Deputy Controller Auckland Emergency Management on Tuesday.
"Keep up to date and look after one another," she said.