Nine people are dead and authorities have “grave fears” for others, while more than 4500 people still can’t be contacted, says Prime Minister Chris Hipkins.
The situation in Hawke’s Bay is “very rough”, there is no power and Napier and evacuation centres are full, the PM says.
Hipkins confirmed eight people had died, with a ninth person, George Luke, the father of former NRL star Issac Luke, dead following a slip on the Taihape-Napier road.
Hipkins’ visit to Hawke’s Bay and the devastated Esk Valley community today coincided with news this morning a two-year-old girl was swept away there in rising floodwaters. This came after news overnight that a second heroic volunteer fireman had died after being caught in a landslide at Muriwai while attempting to save a woman’s house.
“I saw first-hand today just how much Cyclone Gabrielle is going to affect the country,” Hipkins said.
On the death toll, Hipkins said it was not likely to be “huge numbers” more a few people at a time.
The Esk Valley was “full of mud”. Water and mud was destroying homes and crops. Generators were being brought to a central point in Napier.
It was likely the effects of the cyclone would be felt for “quite some time”.
Emergency services held grave concerns for more deaths. There were 4549 people uncontactable and every resource available was being used to assist in searching for people missing – including a team from Australia which arrived today.
Hipkins said 62,000 remained without power.
Authorities were working on cell tower coverage, which had been returned to about 70 per cent of people in affected areas, getting fuel tankers into affected areas, and getting safe water back into Gisborne households.
Air Commodore Darryn Webb from NZ Defence Force said on the East Coast a ship had dropped off supplies in Tokomaru Bay. Resources to assist with water supply and power were also arriving.
The team was also identifying further areas for helicopters to arrive. In Wairoa a water treatment plant had been set up.
A C-130 Hercules has just departed Auckland with water treatment facilities for Gisborne.
In Hawke’s Bay a ship with 26 tonnes of supplies on board had arrived and the army had established a headquarters in Napier.
Webb said they were prepared to construct temporary bridges as needed.
“It is an extraordinary time and we are seeing an extraordinary effort from some amazing New Zealanders.”
Story Credit: news.com.au