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05 Feb 2020 | 01:00 AM UTC

New Zealand: Flooding impacts thousands in Southland as of February 5 /update 1

Authorities issue evacuation orders in some parts of Southland region on February 5 as thousands remain impacted by flooding; state of emergency remains in place

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NZL

Event

Severe flooding in the Southland region continues to impact thousands of residents as of Wednesday, February 5. On Wednesday morning (local time), hundreds of people were ordered to evacuate from the low-lying areas of Gore and Mataura. Residents from Gore were later allowed to return to their homes starting at 18:00 on Wednesday, but other areas in the region remain cut off. State Highway 1 remains closed at Mataura as of 19:00 and the only road to Milford Sound remains inundated. Emergency personnel were forced to airlift almost 200 tourists who were stranded at Milford Sound to Te Anau. Power has been cut to the East Gore area as a precaution due to flooding. Further evacuation orders and power disruptions are possible over the coming days.

A State of Emergency (SoE) remains in place as of Wednesday due to the flooding. Over 1 m (3 ft) of rain fell near Milford Sound over a 60-hour period between Monday, February 3, and Tuesday, February 4. The storm caused the New Zealand MetService to issue its first red weather warning (highest-level on a four-tier scale) on Monday. Authorities in Mataura have also warned that toxic ammonia gas may be released in the area when floodwaters enter an old paper mill and mix with hazardous chemicals being stored in the building.

Associated flooding, landslides, transportation and business disruptions, as well as disruptions to power and communication services, are expected to continue over the coming hours and days.

Advice

Individuals in the affected area are advised to monitor local weather reports, avoid areas directly affected by flooding, confirm road conditions and flight status before setting out, anticipate transportation and business disruptions, and adhere to instructions issued by local authorities. Avoid walking or driving through floodwaters; 15 cm (6 in) of running water is enough to knock over an adult.