Canterbury Storm Cause 'Once-in-a-Century' Floods as Gale-Force Winds Knock Down Power

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By Reissa Su | March 5, 2014 1:10 PM EST

The bad weather in New Zealand's Christchurch caused floods and massive power outages as the city council called it a "once-in-a-century" event. Roads and schools were ordered closed due to flooding brought by the storm. The city council said more than 4000 homes and businesses are still without electricity.

REUTERS/ Christine Brooks
Dust rises from rocks were falling from a cliff in the Christchurch suburb of Sumner moments after an earthquake struck December 23, 2011.

A media briefing was held at the council's headquarters with Mayor Lianne Daziel and Minister for Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Gerry Brownlee giving official updates. Mayor Daziel said the weather was "calming" and water levels were observed to be going down.

She told residents to stay indoors and advised family and friends to look out for one another. Employers were requested to stagger the release of employees to prevent traffic congestion on the roads during rush hour.

A Mairehau welfare centre had offered to help several people during the storm. The city council will assess the situation early today to see if the welfare centre needs to stay open.

Mr Brownlee remarked that the flooding in Canterbury was "quite extraordinary" since he has never seen anything like it. When asked if the mayor had done enough to prepare for the storm and floods, Ms Daziel replied that preparations have begun the past week.

The mayor and the minister will tour the city to assess the extent of the floods. Mr Brownlee said the funds from the programme helping earthquake-prone households with emergency repairs will be redirected to help those who were affected by the recent flooding.

Meanwhile, firefighters have responded to 300 storm-related incidents in Canterbury. Reports of smashed windows, uprooted trees and power lines, and lost roofs were received by authorities.

Gales initially caused most of the damage in the morning of March 4 followed by heavy rain throughout the night. The Christchurch City Council said several communities were isolated. Surface floods affected residents in Richmond, St Albans and Mairehau.

Firefighters rescued people who were stuck in their cars due to overnight flooding. People had no choice but to climb on the roofs of their cars and wait to be rescued. The police has already advised residents to put off unnecessary travel.

The power company, Orion, said about 4100 homes have no electricity. Most homes in the Banks Peninsula as well as pockets of Christchurch were identified as without power. Some substations were expected to be turned off due to rising flood water levels.

Residents affected by floods were warned of the health risks from coming into contact with contaminated flood water.


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(Photo: REUTERS/ Christine Brooks / )
Dust rises from rocks were falling from a cliff in the Christchurch suburb of Sumner moments after an earthquake struck December 23, 2011.
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