New Zealand’s cyclone death toll rises to 11 as thousands remain missing

New Zealand’s cyclone death toll rises to 11 as thousands remain missing

The death toll from New Zealand’s cyclone reached 11 on Sunday as thousands of people remained missing after the nation’s most destructive weather event in decades.

Cyclone Gabrielle struck the country’s north on Monday, bringing widespread flooding, landslides and power cuts, and the level of damage has been compared to Cyclone Bola in 1988. That storm was the most destructive on record to hit the nation of five million people.

Prime Minister Chris Hipkins said the storm is New Zealand’s biggest natural disaster this century. He said more fatalities are possible with 6,431 people still missing.

Lives had been "turned upside down" and recovery is a "steep mountain ahead", he said, pointing to disrupted telecommunications, shortages of fresh water and damaged roads still restricting access to some areas.

At least 28,000 homes are still without power, he added.

"The true extent of the devastation and loss become clearer with every passing day," the prime minister said.

The nation has received at least 12 offers of international aid and a team from Fiji is travelling to New Zealand over the coming days to assist with the recovery.

Twenty-seven emergency workers from Australia are currently assisting with the relief effort.

Recovery efforts continued on Sunday, with teams from Auckland Council carrying out rapid building assessments on damaged homes in the coastal areas of Muriwai and Piha, about 60 km (40 miles) west of the nation’s largest city, Auckland.

Emergency authorities and the military have dropped critical supplies via helicopter to those left stranded by the cyclone, which washed away farms, bridges and livestock and inundated homes.

Police have sent an extra 100 officers to Hawke’s Bay and nearby Tairawhiti amid reports of looting in some areas.

“The police are working to maintain law and order," Mr Hipkins said.