On February 12, the cyclone made landfall in the northernmost part of the island and wreaked havoc along the east coast. Prime Minister Chris Hipkins has called Gabrielle “New Zealand’s biggest natural disaster of this century”.
he death toll from Cyclone Gabrielle in New Zealand climbed to 11 as thousands of people remained missing a week after the storm struck the country’s North Island.
Police said that due to cyclone-related causes, two additional lives have been lost on Sunday in the severely damaged Hawke’s Bay.
Hipkins told reporters in Wellington’s capital that further deaths are unfortunately very likely because 3,216 people had been declared safe but 6,431 people were still unaccounted for.
Life had been “turned upside down” by the tragedy, and rehabilitation remained “a steep mountain ahead,” said Hipkins, mentioning the damaged roads, limited access to some communities, and lack of service as for telecommunications.
Crops had been destroyed or damaged. Authorities said around 62,000 households were without power nationwide. Of those, almost 40,000 were in Hawke’s Bay, out of a population of about 170,000.
“The true extent of the devastation and loss become clearer with every passing day,” the prime minister said.
New Zealand stepped up recovery efforts after Cyclone Gabrielle left at least five people dead and displaced 9,000. It's the country's most damaging storm in decades https://t.co/6gfgNb6jzv pic.twitter.com/TcyRg4Hm6X
— Reuters (@Reuters) February 16, 2023
A team from Fiji would leave for New Zealand in coming days to assist with recovery, one of 12 offers of international aid received so far, Hipkins said. Twenty-seven emergency workers from Australia are assisting with the relief effort. “The United States and Australia through the New Zealand Defence Force have provided crucial satellite imagery products of the affected areas and we are in the final stages of working to accept an offer from the Australian Defence Force who will support the New Zealand Defence Force with a C1-30 transport aircraft, airload teams to bring freight on the aircraft and environmental health staff to assist in analyzing health risks” said the prime minister.
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 been dropping critical supplies via helicopter to communities stranded since 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, including to isolated areas, amid reports of looting.
“So anyone who’s trying to take an opportunistic approach to potential offending should be aware that the police are still out there doing their jobs and they will still be apprehended, they will still be arrested and they will still face the consequences of their actions” – warned Hipkins.
Nearly 2,000 people remained in evacuation centers in Hawke’s Bay, while potentially up to 1,000 people in the region were beyond the reach of emergency services, the New Zealand Herald reported.