Flooding, flights disrupted in New Zealand as country battles intense cyclone

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Residents in New Zealand’s largest city of Auckland and the surrounding area are being told to brace for more heavy rain, flooding and gale-force winds as Cyclone Gabrielle nears the country’s coast.

Gabrielle, is currently sitting 250 km (155 miles) northwest of New Zealand and is forecast to move close to the east coast over the next 24 hours.

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“We expect the impacts of Cyclone Gabrielle to get, unfortunately, worse before they get better,” said Rachel Kelleher, Deputy Controller Auckland Emergency Management on Monday.

“It’s not the time to be complacent,” she added.

The cyclone is the second significant weather event to hit Auckland and the upper North Island in just a few weeks. Last month Auckland and surrounding areas were hit by record rainfall that sparked floods and killed four people.

New Zealand Prime Minister Chris Hipkins on Monday announced a NZ$11.5 million ($7.25 million) package to support community groups such as food banks and to groups impacted by the floods.

On Monday, many schools and local government facilities across Auckland and the upper North Island were closed and people were being asked not to travel if possible.

States of emergency are in place in Auckland and at least five other regions. Electricity is out for 46,000 homes, cell service is patchy in some areas and trees have come down and roofs lifted off.

Public transport has been disrupted with ferries, buses and trains either suspended or operating on a reduced schedule.

Air New Zealand has cancelled 509 flights and said flights will resume on Tuesday when the weather is expected to improve.

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