Four Cyclone Gabrielle deaths confirmed in New Zealand

Three dead as NZ begins cyclone clean-up

A young child has been confirmed dead, as New Zealand counts its mounting toll from Cyclone Gabrielle.

The body of the child, whose age and gender have not been revealed, was found on Wednesday afternoon at Eskdale, in the hard-hit region of Hawke’s Bay.

Authorities said they believed the young child had been caught in rising floodwaters on Tuesday.

Earlier on Wednesday, NZ authorities confirmed they had recovered the body of a volunteer firefighter missing in a landslide at Muriwai, west of Auckland.

Fire and Emergency NZ was alerted to the landslip early on Tuesday, but was unable to get to the house due to flooding.

Two other people are believed to have died in the “unprecedented storm” that pummelled New Zealand on Monday and Tuesday.

One was a woman, who died following a landslip on a rural property at Putorino in northern Hawke’s Bay on Tuesday.

The other suspected fatality relates to a body found on the Napier foreshore, in the same region, on Tuesday night. However, a police spokeswoman said it had not yet been tied to the effects of Gabrielle, and inquiries were ongoing.

Police said on Wednesday that more than 1400 people remained uncontactable across the country. That number is expected to drop dramatically, but there are grave fears for some.

“The vast majority of reports are from Eastern District (Hawke’s Bay and Tairawhiti) alone, with the remainder from across the North Island,” they said.

“The numbers include duplicate reports of the same person reported uncontactable by different people. While we expect a large number of the reports to be the result of communication lines being down, police can confirm there are several people missing in the Hawke’s Bay and Tairawhiti areas, for whom we have grave concerns.”

Coastal residents of Bay View, in Napier, have reportedly claimed to have seen several bodies washed away in raging floodwaters.

FENZ chief executive Kerry Gregory suggested the toll from the mammoth storm was likely to rise further.

“Overnight there’s been reports of further fatalities across the country,” he said in Auckland on Wednesday morning.

“Our hearts go out to the families of those who have potentially lost their lives last night. It’s a really difficult time for New Zealand.”

Emergency Management Minister Kieran McAnulty said he didn’t have an expectation the death toll would rise but “it wouldn’t surprise”.

“Obviously we hope that that doesn’t happen. But this is a serious event that already led to two deaths … there are still rescues to happen,” he said.

As of Wednesday, at least 10,500 people had been displaced from their homes across the country, and 144,000 properties remained without electricity.

The NZ Herald reports that more than 300 residents have been rescued from rooftops and waters since floods inundated Hawkes Bay, cutting off roads, bridges and isolating communities.

Police will redeploy 70 staff from across NZ to the eastern district in coming days “to support recovery efforts and provide community reassurance”.

Some towns remain cut off, and there was a fresh evacuation order for the town of Dargaville, north of Auckland, on Wednesday.

-with AAP

Topics: New Zealand
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