Wild weather disrupts flights across New Zealand

WELLINGTON (AFP) - Air transport across New Zealand was disrupted Friday as gale force winds lashed much of the country, uprooting trees, causing power blackouts and closing roads.

Air New Zealand cancelled all flights to and from the capital Wellington for much of the day after wind gusts of 200 kilometres per hour, the strongest in decades, were recorded after the storm moved in.

The airline also briefly suspended services at Dunedin in the South Island.

It said limited flights had resumed nationwide late Friday but passengers around the country could expect delays, even though conditions had eased.

A thick blanket of snow covered parts of the South Island, making alpine roads impassable and cutting off some communities.

In the North Island, about 30,000 homes were without power in Wellington, where schools were forced to close, rail services were cancelled and landslips shut suburban roads.

"The wind was just roaring all night, it felt like the house was going to blow away," Wellington resident Kylie Goodman said.

Civil Defence Minister Nikki Kaye said a clean-up was underway but it would take time.

"The extent of the damage in many areas is such that it might take some time for normal services to be resumed," she said.

Despite the wild weather, only minor injuries were reported and Kaye praised the efforts of emergency workers.

"No states of emergency have been declared anywhere in the country at this stage, but people should heed advice from local authorities and civil defence emergency management groups," she said.