Hundreds evacuated as ‘frightening’ floods hit New Zealand
Published: Aug 18, 2022 09:16 PM
Hundreds of families on New Zealand's South Island were forced to leave their homes on Thursday after dramatic flooding prompted a state of emergency in three regions.

A tropically fuelled storm has dumped more than 30 centimeters of rain on parts of the South Island, causing rivers to burst their banks. The extreme weather has also felled trees, blocking major roads.

A state of emergency was declared on Wednesday in Buller, on the west coast, and Nelson - where 233 homes have been evacuated after a month's worth of rain fell in just 15 hours.

The deluge transformed Nelson's main river, the Maitai, into a torrent - flooding houses, exposing pipes and leaving streets knee-deep in water.

City mayor Rachel Reese described the flash flooding as a "one-in-100-year event" as search and rescue teams, plus military personnel, helped people on submerged streets.

Reese warned locals to treat all water as contaminated, because some sewers had broken.

Nelson resident Sam Lagrutta said the situation was "frightening" after police gave him just five minutes to leave his home.

"I literally just grabbed a carry-on bag and filled it with my passport, wallet and anything important I could find," he told the New Zealand Herald.

A further 160 households along the South Island's west coast were also asked to evacuate.

Climate change is having an enormous impact on New Zealand's insurance sector. Ten major floods in the past two years have led to total losses of around NZ$400 million ($251 million). About 1 percent of New Zealand's homes are at risk of flooding.