Emergency Declared, Student Missing in New Zealand Floods

By Nick Perry | May 10, 2023

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) – Authorities in Auckland declared a state of emergency Tuesday as flooding again hit New Zealand’s largest city.

Further north in the city of Whangarei, a high school student was missing after a school group that was exploring caves got into trouble when floodwaters hit.

Fire and emergency crews said they had responded to more than 200 calls, most of them in Auckland. Many were for floodwaters entering buildings, but they had also responded to landslides, falling trees and trapped cars.

Severe weather has plagued the North Island this year. In January, four people were killed when floodwaters hit Auckland. In February, 11 people died when Cyclone Gabrielle hit.

Prime Minister Chris Hipkins said it was a difficult time for the region.

“We will get through this. We will support Auckland through it,” he told reporters. “We know that it’s tough coming on top of everything else that they’ve been dealing with, but right now my request to people is just to keep yourself safe.”

Authorities said heavy rain was expected to continue off and on through until midnight, although they hoped the most severe downpours may have already passed. Some train and bus services were canceled, and authorities urged people to avoid unnecessary travel.

Police said a group of 15 students and two adults had been at the Abbey Caves in Whangarei when they got into trouble. Search and rescue crews tried to find the missing student, police said, while the other students made it out safely.

Police suspended their search Tuesday evening and said they would resume again Wednesday morning.

Local media reported the missing boy had been swept away by floodwaters.

Whangarei Boys’ High School Principal Karen Gilbert-Smith wrote on Facebook that an outdoor education class had been on a caving trip when they encountered severe weather. She said the event was “hugely upsetting” for all those involved.

”In time we will seek to understand how this situation occurred, but for now I ask that we stay united as a WBHS community and provide support where required,” the principal wrote.

Hipkins said: “I do want to express my deep concern there and my absolute support for the school community.”

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