March 4. 2024. 10:02

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Cyclone Gabrielle: child among four dead in New Zealand as 1,400 missing

Cyclone Gabrielle has left at least four dead, including one child, more than 10,000 displaced and widespread damage as it moves away from the country.

Police have received more than 1,440 reports of missing people, and while they expect many of those people to be found, the prime minister, Chris Hipkins, said on Wednesday evening: “there are several people missing for whom the police do hold grave concerns”.

On Wednesday afternoon a child’s body was found in Eskdale, Hawke’s Bay. The child is believed to have been caught in rising water, police said.

The prime minister acknowledged those who had lost loved ones, saying: “The grief of their families would be unimaginable.”

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Some parts of the North Island remained cut off from all access, power and communications, making assessing the damage or reaching those in need difficult.

Roads and homes have been submerged by flooding, while key state highways have been cut off by landslides and road collapse. Power was restored to about 80,000 households overnight, but an estimated 160,000 remained without power on Wednesday evening.

At least three people have died in the Hawke’s Bay area; one woman who was killed after a landslide crushed her home, another person who was found dead on the shoreline and the child found in Esk Valley.

In Muriwai, Auckland, the body of a firefighter was found after two days of searching. He had been missing after a landslide destroyed the house that emergency services were checking.

On Wednesday evening at least seven rescue missions were under way in the region, where hundreds of people had already been rescued from rooftops after flooding rose to inundate their homes.

“In some cases, flood waters were up to the second storey of homes where people were being rescued,” the defence force said in a statement.

The emergency management minister, Kieran McAnulty, said it would be unsurprising if the death toll in the region rose further.

“It wouldn’t surprise me,” he said. “Obviously we hope that doesn’t happen.”

At least 300 people were rescued from rooftops in the Hawke’s Bay region after hours spent trapped by flood waters.

With an estimated 10,500 displaced, the government is bracing for a huge influx of people needing emergency or ongoing accommodation.

Given the number of regions that remain uncontactable across the North Island, that figure is expected to rise. The number of people injured, and homes destroyed, remains unknown.

Concern is growing for areas of the North Island with limited communications or power, where authorities have little or no information on the welfare of small settlements and rural residents.

The damage to New Zealand’s transport network is extensive, with many key arterial routes cut off by slips or collapse. – Guardian