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New Zealand: Cyclone Cook makes landfall

Hundreds of people in New Zealand have been evacuated from some coastal areas as the second major storm in just over a week made landfall near the North Island town of Whakatane.

Authorities warn conditions may be like those of 1968's Cyclone Giselle. Landslides, flooding and wind damage from 150kph gusts are expected and  airlines warn of "significant disruptions" with flight delays and cancellations. Weather authorities have said the country was potentially facing the worst storm since 1968, but residents of the nation's largest city Auckland, breathed a sigh of relief as the remnants of Cyclone Cook moved past them to the east.

Authorities had feared the storm could hit the city and cause major problems."It seems Auckland has largely survived ... unscathed," Auckland Mayor Phil Goff tweeted. Civil defence authorities said people from about 250 homes in the beach town of Ohope were told they had to evacuate, while other households chose to leave.

Air New Zealand suspended flights from Tauranga Airport and other flights around the country were also delayed or cancelled. The storm also caused power disruptions to hundreds of homes in Whakatane and Tauranga. The military said it had placed 500 troops on standby to assist those affected, if required. Sarah Stuart-Black, director of the Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management, said the storm was "extremely serious" and severe weather warnings were in place for much of the country.

The storm was expected to move south overnight on Thursday and reach the capital, Wellington, early Friday, causing more problems along the way but also losing some of its punch. Weather expert Chris Brandolino told Radio New Zealand more than 100 millimetres of rain could fall over Thursday and Friday. Further south in the Coromandel and Bay of Plenty regions, power remained out in tens of thousands of homes, and gale-force winds have terrified many residents.

Kiwifruit harvesting had been halted in areas around the country following ex-Cyclone Debbie last week and before Cyclone Cook.

It is harvest season, with a number of orchards having to delay harvest last week due to flooding, and further delays expected.

Chief executive of industry body, New Zealand Kiwifruit Growers Inc (NZKGI) Nikki Johnson, said the group would be monitoring the situation and would assess damages after the weather had cleared.

"Since the rainfall last week, NZKGI has been identifying severely affected orchards near Edgecumbe and providing support where necessary, particularly with pumping water off orchards," Johnson said.

"We have also been communicating the availability of pastoral care for members of our grower community who are experiencing stress."

Johnson said she was aware of a number of orchards that had experienced some degree of flooding last week but said at this stage only a small handful had been severely affected.

"We will now be looking to identify any additional orchards that have been severely impacted by Cyclone Cook," Johnson said.

An industry spokesperson said that, although rain didn't tend to affect kiwifruit growth, high winds could affect the harvest.

Sources: www.theguardian.com

Publication date: 4/13/2017
Author: Nichola McGregor
Copyright: www.freshplaza.com


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