Heavy rain pelts New Zealand, forcing hundreds to evacuate

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — Heavy rain continued to pelt New Zealand on Thursday, causing further disruptions and road closures from a storm that has already forced hundreds of people to evacuate their homes.

Residents in the northern part of North Island found themselves isolated after landslides, fallen trees and floodwaters blocked highway access. The stormy weather also forced some schools to close, airlines to cancel flights and business to shutter.

The storm sunk at least one sailboat near Auckland and caused a home to slip down into a gully in the town of Tāhunanui.

About 230 homes in the town of Nelson were evacuated Wednesday and remained off-limits overnight after the Maitai River flooded. The military patrolled the area overnight.

Resident Robin Reichert told news outlet Stuff that she was “utterly shocked” when her street turned into a raging torrent.

“Within minutes it’s a river,” she said. “That’s how fast it happens.”

Another 160 homes in the town of Westport were also temporarily evacuated with residents later allowed to return.

Roads throughout the nation were closed due to flooding and landslides.

In the Buller region, Mayor Jamie Cleine told reporters that the rain had so far been lower than forecast but there was more rain on the way.

“Right across the district I believe we have got away relatively unscathed,” Cleine said. “A few people that did choose to self-evacuate last night have been told today that it’s reasonably safe, if they feel OK, to head back to their properties today to check them out while we have this lull.”

Cleine warned that more rain was forecast.

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