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Cyclone is a ‘climate change-related event’, minister says

Tess McClure

Tess McClure

Before parliament adjourned to focus on crisis management, New Zealand’s climate minister, James Shaw, has had some stern words to say about the government’s “inaction” on climate change.

As I stand here today, I struggle to find words to express what I am thinking and feeling about this particular crisis. I don’t think I’ve ever felt as sad or as angry about the lost decades that we spent bickering and arguing about whether climate change was real or not, whether it was caused by humans or not, whether it was bad or not, whether we should do something about it or not, because it is clearly here now, and if we do not act, it will get worse.

Shaw then quoted Winston Churchill, saying: “The era of procrastination, of half measures, of soothing and baffling expedience of delays, is coming to its close. In its place we are entering a period of consequences.”

He continued:

There will be people who say it’s ‘too soon’ to talk about these things … but we are standing in it right now. This is a climate change-related event.

We need to stop making excuses for inaction. We cannot put our heads in the sand when the beach is flooding. We must act now.

New Zealand's minister for climate change, James Shaw.
New Zealand’s minister for climate change, James Shaw. Photograph: Ahmad Gharabli/AFP/Getty Images

Key events

Tell us: have you been affected by Cyclone Gabrielle in New Zealand?

We would like to hear from you if you have been affected by the disaster and are in a safe place to communicate. Please do not take any unnecessary risks in order to contact us. We would particularly like to hear from those who are in or in contact with those in the areas that appear worst-affected: Northland, Tolaga Bay, Gisborne/Tairāwhiti, west Auckland and Coromandel, but also those affected throughout the country.

How have you been affected personally, physically or mentally? Have you or your family suffered any damage to your property or livelihood? Do you live abroad but have loved ones in New Zealand who are affected? How do you feel about the response so far from the authorities?

You can use the form here to send them to us.

Cyclone is a ‘climate change-related event’, minister says

Tess McClure

Tess McClure

Before parliament adjourned to focus on crisis management, New Zealand’s climate minister, James Shaw, has had some stern words to say about the government’s “inaction” on climate change.

As I stand here today, I struggle to find words to express what I am thinking and feeling about this particular crisis. I don’t think I’ve ever felt as sad or as angry about the lost decades that we spent bickering and arguing about whether climate change was real or not, whether it was caused by humans or not, whether it was bad or not, whether we should do something about it or not, because it is clearly here now, and if we do not act, it will get worse.

Shaw then quoted Winston Churchill, saying: “The era of procrastination, of half measures, of soothing and baffling expedience of delays, is coming to its close. In its place we are entering a period of consequences.”

He continued:

There will be people who say it’s ‘too soon’ to talk about these things … but we are standing in it right now. This is a climate change-related event.

We need to stop making excuses for inaction. We cannot put our heads in the sand when the beach is flooding. We must act now.

New Zealand's minister for climate change, James Shaw.
New Zealand’s minister for climate change, James Shaw. Photograph: Ahmad Gharabli/AFP/Getty Images

A road has collapsed on Auckland’s Āwhitu Peninsula after a massive landslide hit the area.

The collapse happened on Lighthouse Road, caused by relentless heavy rain that’s lashed the North Island in recent days.

Images supplied to various local media outlets and shared online show the extent of the slip on the peninsula.

Tess McClure

Tess McClure

Parliament to adjourn early as MPs respond to ‘most severe weather event that New Zealand has experienced this century’

New Zealand’s parliament will adjourn early to allow MPs to focus on the cyclone and work in their communities.

The House had its first sitting of the year today, and House leader and finance minister Grant Robertson moved that parliament adjourn until Tuesday the following week.

Cyclone Gabrielle represents the most severe weather event that New Zealand has experienced this century,” he said.

I know that all parties would rather that we were able to carry on, but in the circumstances facing many New Zealanders today, whose lives and livelihoods have been devastated, the right thing to do is to do our jobs and our communities and return here next week.

MetService predicts more heavy rain and damaging winds

MetService has issued its latest weather update, predicting more heavy rain and damaging winds to batter many parts of northern and central New Zealand.

Overnight and this morning, significant rain and wind affected large parts of the North Island, especially in the north and east with Tairāwhiti/Gisborne cut off.

Large waves, storm surges and coastal inundation are affecting exposed eastern coasts of the North Island.

Wind gusts over 140km/h have been recorded at many exposed coastal locations, but urban areas have been affected too, with New Plymouth airport gusts reaching 128km/h. Wave heights close to 11 metres were recorded off the coast of the Bay of Islands.

Napier airport had its second wettest day on record with 175mm of rain in the 24 hours to 9am this morning. That’s more than three times the February average.

The North Island has seen significant and widespread damage with large areas without power or communications, major flooding and wind damage in many regions. Over 30 state highway closures and the shutdown of air, sea and rail transport for much of the northern half of the North Island. Several communities and regions are isolated.

Wind gusts in excess of 120km/h over parts of the upper North Island, Taranaki and central New Zealand are expected, and warnings are still in place.

Flooded houses in Waiohiki.
Flooded houses in Waiohiki. Photograph: Kerry Marshall/Getty Images

Hawke’s Bay residents forced to swim to safety

Tess McClure

Tess McClure

Our New Zealand correspondent Tess McClure brings us this report from Hawke’s Bay, a region on the east coast of the North Island that has been badly battered by the severe weather.

Adrianne Mason, of Esk Valley in Hawke’s Bay, says the flooding in the area is “catastrophic”.

Mason’s 22-year-old daughter had to climb out of her bedroom window in the early hours and swim to safety as flood waters rose.

The Waiohiki bridge over the Tutaekuri River in Hawkes Bay seen washed away on Tuesday.
The Waiohiki Bridge over the Tūtaekurī River in Hawke’s Bay seen washed away on Tuesday. Photograph: Kerry Marshall/Getty Images

Neighbours at an adjacent house were trapped on their roof by rising flood waters. They have since safely self-evacuated to a home on higher ground, but still cannot be reached by rescuers, as the river has washed out roads.

“We were prepared for the cyclone but not for the Esk River to burst,” Mason said.

Their newly built home had been immersed by flood waters, and she says other houses surrounding the river appeared to be destroyed.

“Our brand new house is completely flooded, our son’s house is flooded. But other properties on the other side of the Esk river have lost their houses completely,” she said.

“Our family is OK, so we are lucky.”

In their most recent update, Fire and Emergency said multiple people in the Hawke’s Bay were trapped awaiting rescue in vehicles, houses and on roofs.

“Helicopters aren’t currently able to rescue people trapped on roofs due to the high winds,” they said.

Graph shows extent of rainfall so far this year

A graph of yearly accumulated rainfall at Auckland airport shared by New Zealand’s weather forecaster MetService shows a significant spike in rainfall when compared with previous years.

A total of 540mm was recorded, or about half (48%) of the annual rainfall expected to be recorded by the site in just 45 days.

To help put 2023 in context for Aucklanders, here is the Airport rain accumulation plot (red line is 2023, showing a total of 540mm).

The Airport has seen about half (48%) of its annual rainfall in just 45 days. Drier weather for the coming days, https://t.co/tks2Q488UD ^GG pic.twitter.com/vyA1UOmNE7

— MetService (@MetService) February 14, 2023

113 people sheltered in civil defence centres overnight

About 113 people were forced to reside in civil defence centres and shelters overnight, Auckland emergency management’s deputy controller Rachel Kelleher has told a briefing this afternoon.

Those who sought shelter included those who were evacuated and those who felt unsafe in their homes.

Power out in 44,000 Auckland homes

Around 44,000 homes are currently without power in Auckland, Vector chief operating officer for electricity, gas and fibre, Peter Ryan, told a briefing today.

Ryan said crews were working tirelessly to restore power and urged residents to “please bear with us”.

Ryan also urged people to avoid fallen lines and damaged electrical appliances and to treat all lines as live.

Trees succumb to Cyclone Gabrielle near Warkworth north of Auckland.
Trees succumb to Cyclone Gabrielle near Warkworth north of Auckland. Photograph: Fiona Goodall/Getty Images

1,800 storm-related incidents logged in 24 hours

Fire and Emergency New Zealand deputy national commander Steph Rotarangi has said firefighters have been extremely busy across the country, with 1,800 storm-related incidents logged in the 24 hours up to 2pm.

There has been a rapid increase in calls for help in from residents in the Hawke’s Bay and Tairāwhiti regions, Rotarangi said.

The deputy national commander also provided an update on the missing firefighter after an incident in Muriwai overnight.

Rotarangi said crews attending a routine flooding call when a landslide trapped two firefighters. One firefighter was found early on Tuesday morning but the second firefighter “has not yet been found” she said.

A flooded road near Warkworth on Tuesday.
A flooded road near Warkworth on Tuesday. Photograph: Fiona Goodall/Getty Images

Firefighter missing and another critically injured after house collapses in landslide

A firefighter is missing and another is in critical condition after a house collapsed in West Auckland, the New Zealand Fire and Emergency services has said.

Kerry Gregory, chief executive of the fire service, said a volunteer fire brigade was investigating a flooded house on Motutara Road when a landslide hit the property.

“It’s been a tough night for the North Island as a whole, but it’s been especially tough for fire and emergency,” said Gregory.

Eva Mueller, who lives a street over from Motutara Road, said she was shaken by a loud noise in the night.

We heard a very big crack and bang sound and of course we didn’t know what it was, but obviously it would have been that slip and trees and the house coming down,” she told Stuff.co.nz.

State of emergency extended to Tararua

The state of national emergency has been widened to include the Tararua District. The declaration now covers Northland, Auckland, Tairāwhiti, Bay of Plenty, Waikato, and Hawke’s Bay CDEM Group areas and the Tararua District.

The state of emergency declaration indicates who is administering the response – shifting responsibility to the national government, rather than regional authorities. So while it’s called a state of “national” emergency, it’s not nationwide. It also allows the government to quickly allocate financial resources and coordinate defence forces for evacuations.

150,000 homes confirmed without power – the true number likely much higher

More than 150,000 homes and businesses are without power across the North Island at the moment, most of them in Northland, Auckland and Hawke’s Bay.

That number doesn’t include Gisborne, Tairāwhiti and Bay of Plenty, where communications and power are understood to be down completely, so the total figure will be much higher. Due to those comms and power shutdowns, we haven’t been able to contact the local distributor to get the latest figures; they last issued a press statement last night when outages were in the hundreds.

In Auckland, the distributor Vector said the severe gales pummelling the city “are hampering our efforts to restore power to thousands of people, with crews needing to stand down at times for their own safety”.

“One crew has had to abandon their vehicle in rising floodwaters and others have had to stop restoration efforts at various times through the night and morning,” the company said in a statement.

A landslip near a house on a clifftop caused by continuous bad weather as Cyclone Gabrielle approached Auckland on Monday.
A landslip near a house on a clifftop caused by continuous bad weather as Cyclone Gabrielle approached Auckland on Monday. Photograph: Reuters

Areas of North Island worst-affected by cyclone

Here’s a map indicating the areas believed to be worst-affected by Cyclone Gabrielle at this stage – by no means exclusively.

Coromandel, Gisborne, Hawkes Bay, Northland and West Auckland are some of the areas that appear to have sustained the greatest damage from the cyclone so far.
Coromandel, Gisborne, Hawkes Bay, Northland and West Auckland are some of the areas that appear to have sustained the greatest damage from the cyclone so far.

Access and telecommunications are cut off to Gisborne/Tairāwhiti, the Coromandel and Hawke’s Bay, so it’s very difficult to assess the extent of damage there. In West Auckland and Northland, there are extensive areas of flooding and landslides.



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