Grounded by Gita: cyclone pummels New Zealand

Grounded by Gita: cyclone pummels New Zealand

A State of Emergency is still in place for some regions in the South Island following the impact of Cyclone Gita last night.

Last week, Gita reached wind speeds of 230 kilometres per hour and ripped through the Pacific island of Tonga.

While most of the South Island is out of the woods when it comes to the wild weather, a heavy rain warning remains in place for Dunedin and North Otago.

Seven districts - including Christchurch, Grey District and Buller District have declared a state of emergency as the cyclone began to make landfall overnight. "We are expecting homes to be flooded".

Fiji escaped major damage but Tonga suffered widespread destruction and flooding.

New Zealand Civil Defence warned people to expect flooding in the town's main street "over the next few hours". "Granity in particular has high seas predicted and along with high winds this is not a good situation for those in seafront properties".

Gita, which was downgraded on Tuesday from a tropical cyclone to a storm, is already causing flooding in parts of the South Island with waves up to 7m (22ft) high.

Residents in low-lying areas had been urged to evacuate as security forces were deployed to areas most vulnerable to the expected 150 kph winds and torrential rains where trees, power lines and buildings could be damaged.

Transport authorities shut a stretch of highway along the east coast of the South Island and the Department of Conservation was closing seaside hiking tracks and campsites along the West Coast and ushering tourists away from low-lying areas, media said.

"It's actually getting faster", meteorologist Rob Kerr said.

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