Authorities sent troops to evacuate hundreds of residents from several areas of New Zealand’s South Island after heavy rains caused flooding that destroyed bridges and roads.
For the second day in a row, the cumulative rainfall reached 400 millimeters, causing rivers to burst their banks, which meteorologists say has exceeded the amount of rainfall in some areas so far this year.
AFP reported that authorities issued a rare “red” weather alert and declared a state of emergency in Canterbury, one of New Zealand’s major agricultural towns.
The New Zealand Defence Force said a helicopter was dispatched to rescue three people in Ashburton, near Christchurch. Soldiers, trucks and ambulances also assisted in the evacuation.
Ashburton Mayor Neil Brown said the town of Ashburton, which has a population of about 35,000, has been cut off from external traffic.
Brown told reporters: “We have four bridges washed away, many of the roads that have just been unblocked have been damaged, and 17 roads have been disrupted…there’s been a lot of damage.”
Local media reported that residents of about 300 homes have been evacuated and civil defense authorities have set up shelters at schools and sports centers.