Flights resume in New Zealand as storm eases, but heavy snow expected

WELLINGTON (REUTERS) - Flights and ferry services resumed in New Zealand on Friday (July 14) after a severe storm eased, officials said, but thousands remained without power and heavy snow was expected in some parts of the country.

Southerly gales and heavy rains eased in parts of North Island, with New Zealand's meteorological service lifting weather warnings in those areas.

However, a heavy snow warning remained in place for some parts of the small South Pacific island nation, which was hit by a cyclone in April that killed one person.

Heavy rain and snow caused flight cancellations, road closures and power outages on Thursday, with winds in the capital, Wellington, reaching up to 160 km an hour.

"The strong cold southerly flow over the North Island is forecast to gradually ease today," New Zealand's meteorological service said on its website. "However, further snow is expected about the Central Plateau and ranges of Hawke's Bay until late this afternoon... this additional snow is likely to cause continuing disruption to transport about the central North Island high country."

Officials from Wellington airport said on Twitter that flights had resumed, although delays were expected due to the backlog of flights that had been cancelled on Thursday.

Most ferry services across the Cook Strait between North and South Islands had also resumed.

Thousands of homes remained without power and major roads in North Island were still closed, New Zealand media reported.

A group of 20 motorists trapped on one highway broke into a house to seek shelter on Thursday, according to media reports.