Auckland ‘clobbered’ with record-breaking downpour and massive floods
New Zealand’s largest city Auckland was “clobbered” on Friday by a record-shattering downpour that led to more than 2,000 emergency calls being made, more than 700 incidents across the region and left at least three people dead and two others missing.
The wettest day on record in the city, that 1.6 million people call home, led to the sounding of a state of emergency.
The downpour caused floods in many areas and reached the city’s international airport, leaving hundreds of people stranded overnight inside terminals and widespread flight cancellations.
At least 3,500 homes were left without electricity and an Elton John concert that was supposed to have been attended by 40,000 people on Friday and Saturday was cancelled, angering eager fans who said the emergency should have been declared sooner.
It also forced newly appointed prime minister Chris Hipkins to make an unscheduled stop in the city to tour flood-hit homes.
Rain that would typically fall in the course of a summer fell in a single day, said weather agencies about the Friday downpour. The agencies said this was the most rain Auckland had ever seen in recorded history, reported the Associated Press.
More than 15cm or six inches of rain struck in just three hours in some areas, shutting highways and led to floods in the city’s north, northwest and west.
“This is an unprecedented event in recent memory,” Mr Hipkins said.
“The level of devastation in some areas is considerable,” he told reporters.
The prime minister said three people were left dead. One body was recovered at a flooded culvert and another inside an inundated carpark.
Auckland, New Zealand just recorded its wettest day ever causing deadly, severe flooding.
Over 10 inches of rain fell in 24 hours smashing the previous wettest day on record by nearly 4 inches!
— Colin McCarthy (@US_Stormwatch) January 28, 2023
Police said they were searching for one man who was swept away, while another was unaccounted for.
The crisis at Auckland airport was revealed by its official Twitter handle in which it revealed how officials transported people from various airport areas into the public area, provided food and beverage and said checked in luggage could not be returned on time as the entire baggage hall was flooded.
Domestic flights were cancelled but resumed operations at noon on Saturday while grounded international flights are scheduled to take off at noon a day later.
Twelve international flights had been diverted overnight.
- Unfortunately, due to earlier flooding in the baggage hall, we are currently unable to return checked luggage to you. Your airline will make arrangements for its return at a later time.
- A range of transport options are available.
— Auckland Airport (@AKL_Airport) January 27, 2023
Auckland Airport logging 249 mm (9.8 inches) in the 24 hours to 9 a.m. on Saturday, beating the 1985 high of 161.8 mm, reported Reuters.
The rain eased on Saturday, however, and spurred clean-up operations.
“Auckland was clobbered on Friday – Auckland’s wettest day on record – and today we start the clean-up,” said Andrew Clark, the Auckland Emergency Management’s duty controller and told residents to remain cautious as they inspected damage to their homes.
The rain was caused by warm air descending from the tropics, sparking heavy rain and thunderstorms, according to the agency.
Another round of rain, however, is still possible on Sunday, according to the national weather forecaster, that added the impact was “expected to be severe and wide reaching because of the saturated ground”.
“More flooding will occur through many northern regions in the coming days,” it said.
Footage of the havoc on social media showed deployed boats and officials rescuing people.
Lawmaker Ricardo Menéndez posted video on his Twitter feed.
“We’ve just had to evacuate our home as the water was already rising rapidly and coming in aggressively. We found ourselves with someone’s dog for a while before leaving. Thinking of all the locals who have had been affected by today’s floods,” he said.
We’ve just had to evacuate our home as the water was already rising rapidly and coming in aggressively. We found ourselves with someone’s dog for a while before leaving. Thinking of all the locals who have had been affected by today’s floods. Pls follow civil defence advice pic.twitter.com/a9vXptXoFz
— Ricardo Menéndez (@RMarchNZ) January 27, 2023
Meanwhile, concertgoers at Elton John’s now-cancelled shows were angry at the city mayor for declaring emergency late into the evening and just before he was to take the stage at 7.30pm, as they had braved the weather to reach the venue.
Mayor Wayne Brown, however, defended the decision and said the timing was dictated by experts.
Additional reporting by agencies