Emergency declared as New Zealand floods threaten thousands of homes
Christchurch, New Zealand:
New Zealand authorities declared a state of emergency in Canterbury province on Sunday, as the region was battered by heavy rains that could force thousands to abandon their homes.
Acting Emergency Management Minister Kris Faafoi, who visited the hardest-hit southern parts, said around 3,000 homes were at risk and the military had been mobilized to help with evacuations if necessary.
“The rain will stay at least until tomorrow. It will be heavy and the authorities will monitor the level of the river tonight,” Faafoi said.
The New Zealand Weather Service has issued a rare “red” warning for the region, with up to 300 millimeters (11.8 inches) of rain expected to fall in inland areas.
On the coast of Christchurch, the main city of Canterbury, forecasters expected a drop of around 100mm, well above the total monthly average for May.
Canterbury Civil Defense Emergency Management Group Controller Neville Reilly told the New Zealand Herald the state of emergency was declared because authorities could not afford to take risks.
“There is a lot of contingency planning going on, so if something untoward happens we are able to get people out and give them a place to go,” he said.
“Really, we are holding our breath overnight.”
Neil Brown, the mayor of Ashburton, said about 4,000 people in the city could be forced to evacuate if the Ashburton River breaks its banks.
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