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Rain-smashed Auckland Airport limps back

International flights have resumed at Auckland Airport Sunday, after New Zealand’s biggest city was pounded by record rainfall that triggered floods and widespread disruption.

Hundreds of people were stranded at the airport overnight Friday after it stopped all flights and parts of the terminal turned into a lake.

Auckland Airport became an indoor lake as the rain poured down, forcing hundreds of would-be passengers to spend the night on its upper floors. Photo: Vineet Kumar / Twitter

“While the majority of passengers have been able to secure accommodation today with either friends and family or the city’s accommodation providers, some have been unable to find a bed for the night,” said Carrie Hurihanganui, Auckland Airport Chief Executive overnight Saturday.

“Auckland Airport staff have been handing out baby essentials, snacks, water and hot food, including a sausage sizzle, some of which was provided with thanks to airlines and community organisations.

Airlines and ground handlers also helped provide blankets. It has been a team effort.”

International departures resumed from 5am and arrivals from 7am local time. The airport is urging only passengers with a flight booked to come to the terminal.

Embattled Mayor promises review  of response

Auckland Mayor Wayne Brown defended criticism that his office did not communicate the seriousness of the situation well and held off on declaring an emergency until about 9.30pm on Friday.

During a late night press conference, he said the timing of the emergency declaration was guided by experts.

“We will review everything that took place,” Brown said. “We’ve got to make sure we had the coordination, and the consultation with the public, correct.”

He said he made the emergency declaration as soon as he was given the go-ahead.

“My role isn’t to rush out there with buckets, it’s to be here ensuring that the centre is well-organised and that we are taking appropriate steps at the appropriate time – not rushing into them in response to noise outside.”

Dramatic scenes and deaths

Three people have died and at least one is missing following the devastating flooding.

 

Prime Minister Chris Hipkins flew to Auckland on a military plane after a state of emergency was declared in the region.

New Zealand Prime Minister Chris Hipkins. Photo: AAP

“Our priority is to ensure that Aucklanders are safe, that they’re housed and that they have access to the essential services that they need,” Hipkins said.

He said the city was in for a big clean-up and that people should remain indoors if possible. He said a break in the weather could prove temporary, with more heavy rain forecast.

“This is an unprecedented event in recent memory,” Hipkins said.

Chris Hipkins, center, talks to residents affected by the flooding.  Photo: AAP

Wettest day on record for New Zealand’s largest city

Friday was the wettest day ever recorded in Auckland, according to weather agencies, as the amount of rain that would typically fall over the entire summer hit in a single day. On Friday evening, more than 15 centimetres of rain fell in just three hours in some places.

The rain closed highways and poured into homes.

Police said they found one man’s body in a flooded culvert and another in a flooded car park.

They said one person was missing after being swept away by floodwaters while another remained unaccounted for after a landslide brought down a house in the suburb of Remuera.

Mr Hipkins later said three people had been confirmed dead while at least one remained missing. He said power had been restored to most places, although about 3,500 homes remained without electricity.

Video posted online showed chest-deep water in some places.

Lawmaker Ricardo Menéndez posted a video of water surging into houses. “We’ve just had to evacuate our home as the water was already rising rapidly and coming in aggressively,” he tweeted.

Fire and Emergency New Zealand said crews had responded to more than 700 incidents across the region and staff had taken more than 2,000 emergency calls.

“We had every available career and volunteer crew on the road responding to the most serious events,” said district manager Brad Mosby.

Mosby said crews had rescued 126 people who were trapped in houses or cars, or who had been involved in vehicle crashes.

Air New Zealand resumed domestic flights in and out of Auckland on Saturday afternoon.

Elton John concerts canned

The storm also caused an Elton John concert to be cancelled just before it was due to start Friday night. A second concert by John that was planned at the stadium on Saturday night was also scrapped.

About 40,000 people were expected to attend each concert at Mt Smart Stadium.

Thousands were already at the venue Friday night when organisers decided to cancel not long before John was due to take the stage at 7.30pm.

Many concertgoers who had braved the conditions were frustrated the decision hadn’t been made hours earlier.

 

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