Aucklanders have been forced to evacuate their homes in the middle of the night due to flash flooding, after New Zealand’s largest city was hit by unexpectedly heavy rainfall.
Evacuations were carried out in the suburbs of west Auckland and nearby townships, such as Kumeu and Piha, with firefighters having to use jet skis to reach motorists trapped in their cars, according to the New Zealand Herald.
Emergency services received 150 calls for assistance through the night.
At least 50 homes across the region were evacuated, with flood waters yet to subside as rain continues.
One family said they had been forced to bring their horses into their home and appealed for neighbours to kayak in horse feed.
“With the weather last night we lost everything,” the Huapai resident posted on Facebook. “We have pushed ourselves to the limit swimming horses in and bringing them up into the second level of our house … thankfully we were able to get the kids taken out by jetski … if anyone has some hay or horse feed they can kayak or boat down to us it would be so so appreciated.”
“We’ve been dealing with drought conditions and suddenly we’ve got this,” Auckland mayor Phil Goff told Radio NZ. “The rain through the night was hitting around 90mm an hour which is a hell of a lot of rain.
“That’s now come back but it’s still around 40mm an hour … then the weather is expected to dissipate so we imagine later this morning things will be getting better.”
New Zealand’s weather forecasting agency MetService issued a yellow “heavy rain watch” on Monday, upgrading it to orange warning on Tuesday morning after the bulk of the rain had fallen.
“We knew it was going to rain overnight … but there was no early indication that this was likely to cause the level of flooding it has,” Goff said.
“Our forecasters are pretty good but they’re not miracle workers. They can’t be expected to know everything. This has hit in a pretty localised way.”
The fruit-growing centre of Kumeu has been devastated, with the main road and shops under water, with houses and cars damaged.
Auckland remains in a strict lockdown due to a Covid-19 outbreak, with almost 500 cases identified in New Zealand‘s biggest city over the last fortnight.
But stay-at-home orders are trumped by emergency management controls, meaning affected Kiwis can take the necessary action to safeguard property and family.
“People need to know that while we are under alert level 4 … that is superseded by the more urgent requirement to get out of homes that are no longer habitable,” Goff said.
Emergency shelters have been set up in Henderson and Kumeu.