Further heavy rain is forecast for New Zealand as the city of Auckland struggles to come to terms with the damage caused by catastrophic flooding after record rainfall on 27 January 2023 in which at least 4 people died.
Red (highest) warnings for heavy rain until 01 February were issued for areas to the north of Orewa, a suburb about 40 km north of the city. An Orange warning was issued for areas to the south of Orewa and Great Barrier Island.
Auckland Emergency Management said “Act immediately if you see rising water. Floods can happen quickly. If you see rising water do not wait for official warnings. Evacuate to high ground and stay away from floodwater. Listen to emergency services and self-evacuate if you feel unsafe. If life is in danger, call 111 immediately.”
The Mayor of Auckland, Wayne Brown, said: “Numerous agencies, emergency services, and community groups have been working around the clock to ensure that evacuation centres are ready for tonight, in case they are needed.
“All day, I’ve been fielding calls and reaching out to make sure everything is in place. My immediate concern is safety, we do not want any more fatalities. Please stay safe, and stay home.
“Even if the rain isn’t as bad as feared, our region will struggle with it – we’re already saturated from what was by far the biggest downpour in Auckland’s history on Friday night.”
Many people are still unable to return to their homes after flooding and landslides on 27 January. Evacuation centres have been set up in Kelston, Albany, Randwick Park and Mangere. Further centres have been set up in Wellsford, Warkworth and Kumeū in anticipation of more heavy rain.
Auckland authorities said assessors are currently working through the impacted areas checking homes, buildings and other structures damaged by flooding or landslides. Damage assessment operations will be scaled up significantly in the coming days, Auckland Council said.
As of 31 January assessors had checked over 1,800 homes and deemed 135 no longer safe for habitation. A further 538 homes were severely damaged and 1,128 homes were considered to have minor damage. It was estimated at least 5,000 buildings may need inspection across the region.
Transport and Schools
Dozens of roads have been damaged by floods and landslides in the area. Auckland Transport has a dedicated “weather watch” page listing road closures and giving travel advice. Residents are still being asked to stay at home if it’s safe to do so.
As of 29 January, Auckland Transport said in a statement that teams are working hard to clear road closures across the region, with about 39 roads still closed, including the Great North Road at Waterview.
Schools are closed until 07 February to keep traffic on the roads to a minimum to allow for repairs. Other public services and offices such as libraries and parks were also closed on 31 January in anticipation of more severe weather.
Auckland Airport is now operational for both international and domestic flights, although there is some reduced capacity at the international terminal.
Emergency Financial Aid
The Government announced on 31 January that it is providing a further $1 million to the Mayoral Relief Fund to help communities in Auckland.
Minister for Emergency Management Kieran McAnulty said “Cabinet today agreed that, given the severity of the event, a further $1 million contribution be made. Cabinet wishes to be proactive and get ahead of any formal application from the Council.
“This is the most significant contribution to a Mayoral Relief Fund ever and ensures that funding is being provided to the affected communities as quickly as possible,” Kieran McAnulty said.
According to Reuters, major insurers operating in New Zealand have received 9,000 claims for damage to buildings and vehicles.
The Insurance Council of New Zealand said insurers are prioritising those most affected.
“If you are homeless or otherwise vulnerable as a result of the storms, don’t hesitate to call your insurer. These types of claims will be prioritised,” said Insurance Council of New Zealand Te Kāhui Inihua o Aotearoa (ICNZ) Chief Executive, Tim Grafton. “If your claim is minor, think about using your insurers’ website to lodge your claim.”
“As we have seen after other large-scale events, we know that there will be high demand for tradies, building materials, household goods and vehicles over the coming months,” added Tim. Insurers will do what they can to prioritise those in greatest need, especially those who won’t be able to move home or re-open their businesses before repairs are done. As such, many minor repairs, or the supply of replacement goods, will, in some cases, take longer than normal.”
When it comes to dealing with floods and storms, ICNZ offers the following advice:
- Continue to follow the instructions of Civil Defence and emergency services providers
- Do not do anything that puts your safety at risk or causes more damage to your property
- Contact your insurer as soon as you can
- Avoid entering flood water, either on foot or in a vehicle. Flood water can contain raw sewage and contaminants, conduct electricity and mask hidden hazards, and poses a serious hazard to health. It may be deeper or moving faster than you expect
- Try to make buildings safe and weatherproof but don’t make any emergency repairs unless it is safe to do so.
- Don’t start non-essential repairs without your insurance company’s approval
- If water has entered your property, don’t turn on your electricity until it has been inspected by an electrician
- Get essential services, such as water, electricity, gas and sewerage, repaired and keep copies of any invoices
- Do what’s necessary to make your home safe and sanitary. When cleaning, wear a mask, gloves and overalls to minimise exposure to possibly-hazardous materials
- Take pictures and make a list of any perishables you have to dispose of
- Photograph, remove and discard any water or mud-damaged goods that pose a health risk, such as saturated carpets and soft furnishings
- Take photos of any other damaged property to help speed up the assessments and claims process
- Mark, and take a photo of where flood water reached its highest within your property
- Keep any damaged items that don’t pose a health and safety risk
- Do not drive your vehicle if it has suffered water damage