Remnants of Cyclone Debbie leaves New Zealand underwater

Telegraph Video

People used jet boats and tractors to help rescue about 2,000 residents of a New Zealand town after a river burst through a concrete levee on Thursday, flooding hundreds of homes and businesses.

Local authorities declared a state of emergency after the levee failed in the town of Edgecumbe on the North Island.

New Zealand has been drenched in recent days by the remnants of Cyclone Debbie, which flooded parts of Australia's east coast last week.

Flooded streets of the North Island town of Edgecumbe in New Zealand Credit: Andrew Warner/AP

Tony Bonne, the mayor of the Whakatane District Council, said the water was more than 1 metre (3.3 feet) deep in some homes and that one nearby river had reached an all-time record height.

He said some leaking had occurred around the concrete levee on the Rangitaiki River before it failed.

He said crews had worked to reinforce the structure and thought they had it secured when "she just let go."

A meteorologist with MetService said a nearby weather monitoring station had recorded 191 millimetres (7.5 inches) of rain over the last couple of days, an amount that would typically fall over two months.

Jet boats drive through the flooded streets of the North Island town of Edgecumbe in New Zealand Credit: Andrew Warner/AP

He said the worst of the weather system had passed and the forecast was for improved weather in the coming days.

Bonne said questions would come about how the water flow was managed from hydroelectric dams upstream on the Rangitaiki River before the levee failed.

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