WELLINGTON • The tail-end of powerful Cyclone Debbie, which left a trail of destruction in north-eastern Australia, has lashed New Zealand, closing highways and causing major landslips.
The storm hit yesterday in parts of New Zealand still recovering from a devastating earthquake last November, and the country's meteorological office has warned of heavy rain, with some regions set to receive a month's worth of rain in the next 24 hours.
A landslide 10m wide last night crashed into a block of 11 apartments in Auckland's upmarket suburb of Kohimarama, said The New Zealand Herald. One resident was believed to be missing.
A state of emergency was declared in the city of Whanganui on North Island, with its mayor warning that mandatory evacuations were likely as rivers were forecast to rise to dangerous levels.
"We have about 20 hours to save your precious things, raise things, maybe check on your elderly neighbour," Mayor Hamish McDouall said.
Cyclone Debbie, a Category Four storm, one short of the most powerful level five, pounded Australia's Queensland state last week, smashing tourist resorts, cutting electricity and shutting down coal mines.
New Zealand's mountainous terrain makes its roads susceptible to landslides, and many regions are still recovering from November's 7.8-magnitude quake.
The highway into the quake epicentre of Kaikoura on South Island was closed yesterday, just hours after reopening following a week-long closure to shore up almost 20 potential landslip sites.
Many other roads were closed, as was at least one school.