New Zealand west coast hit by heavy flooding after month of rain in one weekend | New Zealand


The west coast of New Zealand has been hit by severe flooding, with a local state of emergency declared and thousands evacuated from their homes.

The latest flooding came following heavy rains and storms over the past two months that triggered states of emergency in Canterbury and Wellington.

In parts of the west coast, around 300mm of rain fell in a single weekend – around a month of average precipitation concentrated over two days. Heavy rains caused landslides, river overflows and the evacuation of more than 2,000 residents.

Flooding in the Buller district of New Zealand. The government has pledged $ 600,000 in emergency aid to affected areas. Photograph: Corporal Sean Spivey / New Zealand Defense Forces

While no flooding can be directly attributed to the climate crisis, scientists have long warned that global warming will increase the number and likelihood of extreme weather events, including floods, forest fires and heat waves. . As the atmosphere warms, it retains more moisture, resulting in more precipitation.

On Sunday, the government announced emergency aid of $ 600,000 to affected districts. “While it is too early to know the full cost of the damage, we expect it to be significant … a big cleanup and recovery effort awaits us,” the acting Minister of Emergency Management said , Kris Faafoi.

Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor announced financial support to farmers, saying “the magnitude of the impact exceeds the capacity of communities to cope.”

As the flood waters are now receding, cleaning up the area should take some time. “In most cases, it will take months, rather than weeks, to fully restore your home (s),” the West Coast District Health Board said in a statement to local residents.

Faafoi said on Sunday that around 1,000 people were still out of their homes in Westport.

The extreme weather conditions come as other parts of the world are reeling from the floods, including Germany, Austria, Belgium, the Netherlands, London, Edinburgh and Tokyo. Floods in western Germany and Belgium have left at least 180 dead. During the same period, the western United States and Canada were hit by unprecedented extreme heat waves, which claimed hundreds of lives.

Internationally, recent floods have sparked political reflection on climate change. When asked if climate change had contributed to catastrophic flooding in Europe, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said that was “definitely the case”.

In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel said the country must “step up the pace of the fight against climate change”.

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