NEWS

New Zealanders Are Bracing For The Worst Storm In 50 Years

Hundreds of residents evacuate, schools and universities close and people are being told to stay inside.

13/04/2017 1:13 PM AEST | Updated 13/04/2017 5:10 PM AEST

Evacuations are underway and states of emergency have been declared for two areas as New Zealand braces for its worst storm in 50 years.

The fast-moving storm, which is the remnant of the former Tropical Cyclome Cook, reached New Zealand's North Island on Thursday afternoon, with the meteorological service warning of flash flooding, swells of up to five metres and wind gusts of up to 150km/h.

The NZ MetService issued the following alert at 4:20pm local time (2:20 AEST)

Cyclone Cook expected to bring further heavy rain and severe gales to parts of the North Island.

The centre of Cyclone Cook lay about 100km east of Whitianga in the Coromandel Peninsula at 3pm Thursday and is expected to make landfall over Bay of Plenty between Tauranga and Whakatane about 6pm this evening, then move southwards reaching Wellington or Wairarapa in the early hours of Friday morning. On this track, damaging severe gales with gusts of 150 km/h or more are possible, affecting regions from Coromandel Peninsula and Bay of Plenty, down to Wellington. Coastal areas of eastern Coromandel Peninsula and Bay of Plenty may see large waves of 5 metres or more, storm surges near the centre of Cyclone Cook, coastal inundation and erosion.

Tropical Cyclone Cook proved fatal in New Caledonia on Monday when winds of up to 200km/h brought down trees, blocked roads and forced residents to shelter inside. A 73-year-old man died after being swept away by a rising river during the storm, according to Radio NZ.

The cyclone has since been downgraded to a tropical low, but New Zealanders are nevertheless being advised to "take extreme care".

"People should prepare for the possibility of flooding, landslips, wind damage to powerlines, property and large trees," meteorologist Arno Dyason said.

"People should be prepared to change their travel plans if necessary as driving could become hazardous during the severe weather period."

Holidaymakers heading north for the Easter long weekend are being told to turn around and go home, with states of emergency beings declared for the Bay of Plenty and Coromandel Peninsula on New Zealand's North Island.

Hundreds of people have been evacuated from low lying areas of the North Island and emergency services are on standby.

The New Zealand Transport Authority is considering closing the Auckland Harbour Bridge, a major thoroughfare into and out of the city for its 1.37 million residents. More than 100 schools have been closed the day before breaking up for the Easter long weekend, and universities in Auckland were closing early on Thursday, ABC News has reported.

New Zealand's Transport Minister, Simon Bridges, suggested all New Zealanders stay home "all cosy watching TV or Netflix".

The tropical low is the second major storm threat in a week for New Zealand, which is still reeling from the tail end of ex-Cyclone Debbie.

After killing six people and causing mass destruction across Queensland and northern New South Wales, the massive storm went on to batter New Zealand, causing major flooding, road closures and landslides.

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