Authorities have declared a state of emergency after record rainfall hit New Zealand’s South Island. Flooding has destroyed a bridge and several roads. At least one person is thought to have died in the flooding.
The county’s National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) said the rain was brought by an atmospheric river which “has an atmospheric ‘footprint’ that extends some 5000+ km, from the Timor Sea to New Zealand.”
According to NIWA, Cropp Waterfall recorded 1,086 mm of rain in 48 hours to 27 March, the highest ever 48 hour total for New Zealand.
Civil Defence West Coast Region declared a local state of emergency for the Westland District at 1745hrs on 26 March 2019 (local time) due to the severe weather.
New Zealand police said that the body of a woman had been found washed up on a riverbank in Arahura Valley near the town of Hokitika, West Coast region. Police said initial enquiries suggest the woman was swept away in flood waters after getting out of her vehicle.
Raging flood waters from the Waiho River completely destroyed the Waiho Bridge near the town of Franz Josef on 26 March. In a statement of 27 March, West Coast Region Civil Defence said the bridge will need to be completely replaced, with work likely to start immediately and take around 10 to 14 days.
The severe weather has caused power outages and disrupted telephone connections. Dozens of houses and business have been affected by flooding. Around 300km of roads have been damaged. As of 27 March at least State Highways 6 and 73 were blocked in several locations.