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Asia Minute: Devastating storms hit New Zealand

New Zealand Cyclone
New Zealand Defense Force
In this image released by the New Zealand Defense Force on Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2023, a road between Napier and Wairoa is washed out by flood water. The New Zealand government declared a national state of emergency Tuesday after Cyclone Gabrielle battered the country's north in what officials described as the nation's most severe weather event in years.

New Zealand's government is asking for international help to respond to what the Prime Minister says is the country's worst natural disaster in a generation.

Cyclone Gabrielle barreled through North Island earlier this week and on Tuesday, the government announced a national state of emergency for only the third time in the country's history.

Wind speeds passed 100 mph in some places — and some were hit by more than a foot of rain.

Widespread flooding is continuing, while forecasters warn another round of heavy rains is likely.

North Island is home to nearly 80% of New Zealand's population, from the national capital of Wellington to the country's most populous city of Auckland.

Just two weeks ago, Auckland was hit by heavy rains that sparked flash flooding and landslides — during what is usually dry season.

Early Thursday, Prime Minister Chris Hipkins traveled north and east from the capital to the coastal city of Gisborne, which was hit hard by the most recent storms.

Landslides there have complicated recovery efforts. Power, phone and internet access have all been cut to thousands of residents.

The city’s main water supply has also been damaged, and the result is what the mayor is calling a “water crisis” that she says “will take months to fix.”

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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