Flooding in Auckland: 3 dead, homes destroyed, events cancelled


* A state of emergency has been declared in Auckland after a severe storm and rain that caused widespread flooding and damage

* There will be no flights arriving or departing from Auckland Airport until 12 noon on Saturday

* More than 2,000 calls for help have been made throughout the city

*MetService has issued a heavy rain red alert for the region after a record 24-hour rainfall – 249mm, breaking the previous 24-hour record of 161.8mm

* Auckland Emergency Management is asking people to stay home if possible

* Mayor Wayne Brown said people should follow emergency instructions: “We need the rain to stop, that’s the main issue”

*Sir Elton John’s Friday and Saturday concerts at Mt Smart have been cancelled

Three people have died and one is missing after raging flooding and slippage caused by an unprecedented deluge of rain in Auckland – the wettest day on record in the city.

A state of emergency remains in place across the region, with Auckland Airport and State Highway 1 partially closed. Sir Elton John’s second Auckland concert has been canceled tonight, as has Monday’s Laneway Festival event.

The Gardens Music Festival will continue as usual, as it will move to the Spark Arena. Festival organisers, which include acts such as Fatboy Slim, Peking Duck, LP Giobbi and Set Mo, have confirmed they are in the process of relocating to the Spark Arena ahead of Sunday’s event.

There is also extensive damage to homes and many residents have been evacuated. Several homes in Hillsborough, Massey, Stanley Pt and Northcote Pt have been left toppling over cliff tops due to dramatic landslides, and Deputy Prime Minister Carmel Sepuloni says some people have lost entire homes.

Three deaths have been confirmed and one person is missing, police say. A man was found dead in a flooded culvert in the Wairau Valley around 7:30pm and another man was found dead in a flooded car park on Link Dr, also in the Wairau Valley, around 12:30pm. A third person died on Shore Rd in Remuera. The investigation into the deaths continues.

Police and other emergency services responded to a landslide that brought down a house on Shore Rd last night. The New Zealand Herald understands that the dead man’s son, who was also in the house at the time, managed to escape despite initially being caught by one of his legs. The son, who was at the front door when the landslide occurred, then unsuccessfully tried to find his father.

A man was also swept away by flooding in Onewhero around 10:15 p.m. and has not yet been found.

Police and other emergency services also responded to a call for a landslide that brought down a home on Shore Rd, Remuera. One person is missing. The New Zealand Herald understands that the missing man’s son, who was also in the house at the time, managed to escape despite initially being caught by one of his legs. The son, who was at the front door when the landslide occurred, then unsuccessfully tried to find his father.

More heavy rain has fallen in Auckland today as residents measure the damage to their homes and streets – there is widespread chaos in the region. The airport was closed to all flights until noon, when domestic flights resumed. International flights will resume at 5pm at the earliest and arrivals will not begin landing until 4am on Sunday.

Overnight, a number of international flights had to be diverted to other countries or returned to their point of origin and it was not yet known what time they can resume. Air NZ 1 – the direct flight from New York to Auckland – was diverted to Hawaii, one of 12 international diversions for the airline. Flights from Emirates and American Airlines were also sent elsewhere.

Record amount of rain: MetService

MetService said a record amount of rain had fallen in Auckland in 24 hours – today at 1am the region had recorded 249mm of rain, breaking the previous 24-hour record of 161.8mm set in February 1985.

Monthly records have also been broken: the wettest January on record at Auckland Airport’s weather station to date was in 1986 with 20cm and the wettest month on record was July 1998 with 30cm. So far this month, 12 inches of rain has fallen — a “massive” amount, MetService said.

Prime Minister Chris Hipkins traveled to Auckland on Saturday morning. “When the rain hit, it hit really hard and really fast… Aucklanders have to brace themselves for the fact that there could be more rain,” he told reporters in Wellington earlier in the day.

More rain was predicted to fall today as civil defense warned Aucklanders in flood-prone areas to prepare for evacuation and urged others to stay home as torrential rain worsened overnight. People should check friends and neighbors if it was safe to do so.

More rain is forecast today as Civil Protection warned Aucklanders in flood-prone areas to prepare for evacuation and urged others to stay home as the torrential rain worsened overnight. People should check friends and neighbors if it was safe to do so.

Every available Fire and Emergency NZ (Fenz) crew in Auckland was on deck and has responded to more than 2,000 calls for help.

Crews responded to 719 weather-related incidents in Waitemata, the city of Auckland and the counties of Manukau between 12:01 Friday and 7:30 am Saturday.

District manager Brad Mosby says 2,242 911 calls were answered by Fire and Emergency Communications Center employees, resulting in 2,074 calls for help during the weather event.

“This was an unprecedented volume of calls and we had to prioritize. We had all available career and volunteer crews on the road to respond to the most dire events.”

These included 126 rescues of people trapped in cars and homes, or involved in motor vehicle accidents; 84 Priority 1 incidents (where there was a confirmed threat to humans); and 237 priority two incidents (involving potential threat to individuals)

The rest of the 719 responses consisted of activations of private fire alarms, building fires and emergency medical services.

Houses in Rānui are said to have fallen off their foundations, according to Fenz. One resident said houses were “flooded” and photos of the scene showed river-like streets.

“The damage is going to be very bad once this rain clears,” Camphora Rd resident Prashant Roy said last night. “As it goes, as it rains, these houses might be completely flooded by midnight.”

Many major roads and highways around the city were closed due to flooding. About 18 vehicles were trapped between two slips on State Highway 1 about 2 miles north of the Johnstones Hill Tunnels near Puhoi.

Mayor of Auckland: I couldn’t act sooner

Auckland Mayor Wayne Brown has been criticized by residents and several politicians for acting too slowly in the crisis, but he defended his actions late last night when speaking to reporters.

Local civil defense authorities met last night to discuss how to respond to the ongoing crisis. A state of emergency was declared around 9:30 p.m., Brown said.

There were several calls to the mayor to declare a state of emergency earlier last night. But Brown defended himself against criticism, including from local councilors and MPs, telling reporters after 11pm: “I couldn’t act sooner, it was a formal process…I listened to the professionals in the field.”

He added: “It is not my role to run out with buckets. It’s here to make sure the center is well organized and we take the right steps at the right time, not rushing into it in response to noise outside.

“This is not something you just respond to because of a cry from the public.”

Prime Minister Chris Hipkins said on Twitter: “I am pleased that a state of emergency has been declared tonight due to the flooding in Auckland. All relevant government agencies are working hard to assist in extraordinary circumstances. Emergency relief is underway and the government is ready to help where needed.”

He said the Beehive Bunker had been activated to help coordinate the emergency response in Auckland. “I have asked that the frequency of public updates be increased as soon as possible.”

Hipkins traveled first to Auckland on Saturday morning and would send further support.

“Once the sun rises we will know a little more about what we are dealing with and the true magnitude of the challenge that Auckland faces. When the rain hit, it hit very hard and very fast… Aucklanders should brace themselves for the fact that more rain could fall.

Senior Government Minister Michael Wood also said on Twitter: “In my area this is the worst flooding I have ever seen and more could come overnight.”

Wood explained the latest call for a formal declaration of emergency to the mayor of Auckland.

The Mt Roskill MP, who is also the transport minister, also instructed Waka Kotahi/NZ Transport Agency staff to return to work after the social media team issued a “final update” at 7.40pm. “I have seen this and have instructed the Agency to urgently reopen their channels,” he tweeted.

National Party leader Christopher Luxon also said on Twitter: “I urge Mayor Wayne Brown to declare a state of emergency for Auckland now. This gives our brilliant emergency response teams the tools they need to respond. High tide comes after midnight and we need a list of evacuation centers for people to go to.”

Emergency Management Minister Kieran McAnulty said on Twitter shortly after 10pm: “The Mayor of Auckland has declared a state of emergency. NEMA (National Emergency Management Agency) can now provide additional support and resources from other regions. I will continue to receive live updates from NEMA, liaise with MPs in Auckland and update the Prime Minister as needed.”

After declaring a state of emergency, Brown said in a statement: “This statement reflects the magnitude of the damage, displacement and disruption caused by tonight’s severe weather and will allow emergency services and emergency services to deploy resources and issue additional powers to assist affected Aucklanders.”

He said the region had suffered “widespread damage from flooding and torrential rain” while both infrastructure and emergency services were overwhelmed by the storm’s effects. The local state of emergency takes effect immediately and expires in seven days.

Brown said he had been “monitoring the situation closely throughout the evening in his office” and signed the statement immediately after formal counsel.