New Zealand cancels flights as deluge from cyclone looms

Wellington (New Zealand): New Zealand's national carrier canceled dozens of flights Sunday as Aucklanders braced for a deluge from Cyclone Gabrielle, two weeks after a record-breaking storm swamped the nation's largest city and killed four people.

Air New Zealand said it was canceling all domestic flights to and from Auckland through midday Tuesday as well as many international flights. The carrier said some international routes would continue operating, although flights might need to be diverted from Auckland.

The carrier also canceled domestic flights to and from the cities of Hamilton, Tauranga and Taupo.

Cyclone Gabrielle was already affecting the northern part of New Zealand on Sunday. On Monday, it was expected to dump up to 250 millimeters (10 inches) of rain on Auckland.

Gabrielle's windspeed was earlier downgraded as the cyclone slowed. Gusts of about 130 kilometers per hour (80 miles per hour) were expected.

Weather forecaster MetService said it was expecting a “widespread and significant” weather event, with heavy rain, strong winds and large waves.

“Please do take this seriously, we do expect severe weather is on the way,” New Zealand Prime Minister Chris Hipkins told reporters. “So please make sure that you're prepared. Make sure that you've got preparations in place for either if you have to stay put for a period of time, or if you have to evacuate.”

Earlier, the cyclone passed near remote Norfolk Island, a territory of Australia that is home to about 1,750 people.

Emergency Management Norfolk Island Controller George Plant said Sunday it had issued an all-clear. He said there was some debris on the roads and some power lines were down.

“We have been extremely fortunate with the passage of the cyclone as the most destructive winds have just missed us,” Plant wrote on Facebook. “However, there is still considerable clean-up to be undertaken and it may take a while for services such as power to be restored.”

As the cyclone began hitting New Zealand's Northland region on Sunday, flooding and winds caused some roads to be closed and thousands of homes to lose power.

Two weeks ago, Aucklanders experienced the wettest day ever recorded in the city, as the amount of rain that would typically fall over the entire summer hit in a single day.

Quickly rising floodwaters killed four people, caused widespread disruption and left hundreds of homes unlivable.

( Source : PTI )
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