Tourists stranded as storm hits New Zealand

Takaka Hill on the South Island of New Zealand, after the onslaught of the storm Gita. The still image, taken from drone footage on Tuesday, was obtained from social media.
Takaka Hill on the South Island of New Zealand, after the onslaught of the storm Gita. The still image, taken from drone footage on Tuesday, was obtained from social media.

WELLINGTON • Up to 1,000 tourists were stranded in New Zealand's Golden Bay yesterday after the ex-Cyclone Gita buffeted the South Pacific nation, officials said.

The authorities said they were considering sending ferries to ship the holidaymakers out of the remote South Island region after huge landslips closed the main highway, Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported.

Elsewhere, the storm cut power to tens of thousands of homes, felled trees and washed away roads.

Cyclone Gita caused extensive damage as it tore through Tonga and Samoa last week, peaking as a top-of-the-scale Category Five super-storm.

It has since been downgraded but still carried a sting in the tail when it reached New Zealand overnight, bringing 140kmh winds and around 200mm of rainfall, AFP said.

Seven local council areas, including the South Island's main city of Christchurch, declared a state of emergency on Tuesday as officials anticipated the worst.

Most reported early yesterday that the weather had not been as extreme as predicted, with the top of the South Island the worst-hit area.

Local mayor Richard Kempthorne said all transport options would be considered if road access to Golden Bay could not be restored swiftly.

"Ferry and barge and for some people, air travel... we've got a population of 5,000 people who need to eat and we've got holidaymakers," he said. "There's probably hundreds if not more than 1,000 people in there at the moment who probably want to leave and continue with their trip," AFP quoted the mayor as saying.

Tourism New Zealand told The Straits Times that it has not received any word on Singaporeans among the stranded.

The official MetService weather bureau said the storm had moved out to sea south of Christchurch by mid-morning yesterday.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 22, 2018, with the headline 'Tourists stranded as storm hits New Zealand'. Print Edition | Subscribe