A New Zealand town devastated by floods will take years to recover, the mayor said on Friday, as hundreds more homes were evacuated.
Wild weather has hit the Pacific nation, with the South Island’s Nelson-Tasman district bearing the brunt after a reported 75 centimeters (29 inches) of rain fell over three days.
Several streets in the city of Nelson were flooded after the local Maitai River burst its banks.
Nelson Mayor Rachel Reese said repairing damage to the city’s roads and infrastructure will take “years, not months.”
She added that it is “vital” that Nelson residents conserve water as the city’s supply was cut off by a landslide that damaged the local reservoir main.
Visiting to witness the damage, New Zealand’s Minister for Emergency Management Kieran McAnulty pledged $200,000 ($125,000) in aid and confirmed more than 400 homes in Nelson were evacuated, where to as before the state of emergency prevails.
He added that flooding and landslides may have rendered 60 homes uninhabitable.
McAnulty told reporters one of the most striking things he saw was a road on a housing development “where the road had just been eroded leaving a crater that was deeper than my height.”
Nelson resident Paul Maskell said a neighbor alerted him to the rising water on his street.
“When I came back it was a foot in the water and boulders were running down the road. It was surreal,” he told the New Zealand Herald.
An elderly resident who was recovering from surgery had to be taken to safety by firefighters late Thursday night after his home was threatened by flooding.
New Zealand’s South Island braced for another heavy downpour, but other regions couldn’t escape the extreme weather.
The nearby city of New Plymouth experienced the wettest August day on record, with a fall of 10 centimeters in 12 hours.
“More than a meter of rain has fallen, causing significant runoff in all rivers,” said Todd Velvin, Taranaki’s chief of civil defense, with flooding, road closures and downed trees causing problems.
Kaitaia, a town near the tip of the North Island, was cut off by flooding and landslides, and around 400 homes in the far north were left without power.
Experts say climate change caused by human activities is increasing the intensity and frequency of extreme weather events such as heat waves, droughts and floods.
Daniel Kingston, senior geography lecturer at the University of Otago, attributed the heavy rain to an “atmospheric flow” — a narrow band of water vapor high in the atmosphere over New Zealand.
“It’s safe to say that the impact of climate change is most likely playing a role,” Kingston told AFP.
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