Heavy rain has led to rivers bursting their banks, forcing the closure of shops and restaurants
Streets in the South Island tourist towns of Wanaka and Queenstown were slowly going under water on Friday, after Lake Wanaka and Lake Wakatipu burst their banks earlier in the week, flooding businesses and sewerage systems.
Water and large debris closed the main street of Wanaka, a popular spot with Instagrammers thanks to its famous tree that appears to have grown out of the lake. On Friday businesses were sandbagging as heavy rain continued to fall.
Sewerage systems in the town were also at risk of contaminating the lake, with the Queenstown Lakes District council taking the precautionary measure of shutting down the sewer connection to a handful of premises.
Wanaka residents were told to be on “high alert” with heavy rain predicted all weekend.
The streets of the usually bustling tourist town were largely empty, and the popular cafes and restaurants on the lake shore were closed.
Date: Mon, 9 Dec 2019 10:20:33 +0100 (MET) By Neil SANDS, with Holly Robertson in Sydney
Wellington, Dec 9, 2019 (AFP) - Five people were killed, 18 were injured and several more were left stranded after an island volcano popular with tourists erupted unexpectedly in New Zealand on Monday. Police said some 50 people were visiting White Island when it exploded suddenly in the early afternoon -- hurling ash and rock high into the air. Two dozen people made it off the island, five of whom have since died. The rest are being treated for injuries, including severe burns.
Nothing is yet known about a group -- now estimated to number in the double digits -- who are still trapped on the island. "We're unsure of the exact numbers on there and we're unsure of their wellbeing," said deputy commissioner John Tims. As night fell, he said volcanic activity made a rescue attempt too dangerous. "The island is unstable, there's a danger of further eruptions, it is physically unsafe for us to return to the island" "I've got to consider the safety of our people and emergency services staff." The eruption occurred at 2:11pm (0111 GMT), thrusting a thick plume of white ash 3.6 kilometres (12,000 feet) into the sky. Seconds before, live camera feeds showed a group of more than a half dozen people walking on the crater floor. Then the images went black.
A "considerable number" of those caught up in the disaster are believed to be Australian, according to officials in Canberra. As many as 30 people are also believed to be cruise passengers on a day trip from the vessel Ovation of the Seas, Kevin O'Sullivan, chief executive officer of industry body the New Zealand Cruise Association told AFP. The ship's operator Royal Caribbean -- who had billed the trip to White Island as "an unforgettable guided tour of New Zealand's most active volcano" -- said "a number of our guests were touring the island" but did not confirm that number. The ship has a capacity of around 4,000 people and set sail from Sydney last week on a 12 day voyage.
- Scene of terror - Tourist Michael Schade, made it off the island just in time and was able to capture footage of the devastation. His videos showed groups of startled tourists clustered by the shoreline, waiting to be evacuated as the ground around them smouldered, the sky filled with white debris. An ash-caked helicopter lies damaged nearby. As his ship hurtled away, the caldera became virtually invisible, shrouded by a thick bank of ash. Volcanic Air said they had landed a helicopter on the island shortly before the eruption carrying four visitors and one pilot. All were now accounted for. "It had landed on the island. What happened after that we don't know, but we know that all five made it back to Whakatane on one of the tourist boats," a company spokesman told AFP.
Guillaume Calmelet, the co-director of Skydive Tauranga, saw the eruption from above as he took a customer on a tandem skydive from a plane 12,000 feet above the Bay of Plenty. "As soon as the parachute opened there was this huge cloud that was really different to whatever we've seen before," he told AFP. "I could see it coming out in freefall, so probably about 30 seconds for the whole cloud to form, if that. It was pretty quick." The country's National Emergency Management Agency described the eruption as "moderate", although the plume of ash was clearly visible from the mainland and from satellites flying overhead. "We have seen a steady decline in activity since the eruption. There remains significant uncertainty as to future changes but currently, there are no signs of escalation."
White Island -- - also known as Whakaari -- is about 50 kilometres (30 miles) offshore in the picturesque Bay of Plenty and is popular with adventurous tourists willing to don hard hats and gas masks. It is New Zealand's most active volcano cone and about 70 percent of it is underwater, according to government-backed agency GeoNet. Around 10,000 people visit the volcano every year. It has erupted frequently over the last half-century, most recently in 2016.
In August of that year the New Zealand Defence Force airlifted a 2.4-tonne shipping container onto the island to serve as an emergency shelter in case of an eruption. "Sudden, unheralded eruptions from volcanoes such as White Island can be expected at any time," said University of Auckland volcanologist Shane Cronin. "The hazards expected from such events are the violent ejection of hot blocks and ash, and formation of 'hurricane-like' currents of wet ash and coarse particles that radiate from the explosion vent." "These can be deadly in terms of causing impact trauma, burns and respiratory problems. The eruptions are short-lived, but once one occurs, there are high chances for further, generally smaller ones as the system re-equilibrates."
Date: Mon, 9 Dec 2019 03:52:15 +0100 (MET)
Mount Hutt, New Zealand, Dec 9, 2019 (AFP) - Almost 1,000 tourists were stranded in New Zealand's South Island Monday after wild storms cut highways, washed away bridges and flooded the rugged landscape. Meteorologists said up to 400 millimetres (16 inches) of rain was dumped on the South Island over 24 hours by a severe weather system that unleashed gale-force winds and 230,000 lightning strikes. The main highway through the island was closed after the Rangitata river burst its banks. Townships near the popular Franz Josef glacier were isolated when landslips blocked road access.
With New Zealand entering its peak tourist season, some 970 travellers at Franz Josef were left facing the prospect of taking an expensive helicopter ride to get out or hunkering down until Friday, when the road is expected to be cleared. "Between the community, the hotels and motels and our welfare centre we've managed to billet out most people overnight," Civil Defence spokesman Stephen Doran told TVNZ. "We'd just ask people to stay put at the moment. We want to keep the work site clear so we can get supplies in there... and try to get the road into some sort of shape."
Another landslip on the island's west coast will take an estimated six weeks to clear. The worst of the weather hit over the weekend and it is forecast to deteriorate again later in the week, leaving authorities scrambling during a brief respite to complete as much repair work as possible.
Date: Tue, 22 Oct 2019 05:13:16 +0200 (METDST)
Wellington, Oct 22, 2019 (AFP) - A huge fire at a construction site sent clouds of acrid black smoke billowing over Auckland on Tuesday, forcing large parts of the downtown area to be cordoned off as firefighters battled the blaze. The fire broke out on the roof of the SkyCity convention centre site shortly after 1:10pm (0010 GMT) and quickly spread, Fire and Emergency NZ said. Office workers were warned to stay inside and turn off air conditioning as a thick pall of smoke engulfed the centre of New Zealand's largest city, but there were no reports on injuries. Unconfirmed reports said the fire was started by a construction worker using a blowtorch on the building, which is one of the venues for the 2021 APEC summit being held in Auckland.
People who attended a football tournament in Hamilton and some businesses are being warned they could have been exposed to measles. On [Wed 11 Sep 2019] the Waikato District Health Board confirmed there are 13 measles cases in the Waikato including Hamilton, Paeroa and Morrinsville.
The District Health Board is urging people who attended the New Zealand Secondary School Girls Football tournament in Hamilton to be aware they may have been exposed to measles.
The tournament ran from [3 Sep 2019] and organisers have been asked to alert all participating teams. [Byline: Libby Wilson]