Insurers say devastating floods in Auckland were the ‘biggest weather event’ in New Zealand’s history, as rain eases after days of precipitation And the process of cleaning the city has begun.
Friday was the wettest day on record for New Zealand’s largest city, as torrential rain sent floodwaters sweeping into streets and down highways, killing four people. Schools and businesses were closed as the flood destroyed buildings and roads. Auckland International Airport has been temporarily closed, stranding thousands of travelers abroad.
Finance Minister Grant Robertson told reporters Oakland on Wednesday that the flood would be the “largest non-earthquake event” in terms of insurance the country has ever recorded. He had no estimates yet of the likely cost of the damage.
His comments came as the rains eased in the city of 1.6 million people – although the downpour renewed and caused more damage overnight – and attention turned to assessing the scale of the chaos.
A New Zealand Insurance Council spokesperson told the Guardian that at least 20,000 claims have already been submitted, and the numbers are expected to continue to rise for weeks.
As the waters receded, evidence of a muddy, ruined city came to light: officials put up red signs on 138 buildings – meaning entry is prohibited without council approval – while yellow signs restricted the use of 542 others. Inspections of the structures are due to be completed by the end of the week.
Landslides and potholes continue to threaten homes. Three people were taken to hospital Wednesday afternoon – two of them seriously injured – after a home in Orua Bay, a rural town in Auckland, crashed onto a beach bank, trapping a person inside.
More than 600 flood-damaged vehicles have been removed from the city’s roads, said Rachel Kelleher, deputy superintendent of Oakland Emergency Management. Across town, trees, debris and mud littered the streets as residents waded last Friday in deep water or paddle kayak to safety.
Schools and early learning centers – which were closed this week by order of the Ministry of Education – will be allowed to open on Thursday if they wish.
Parts of the city’s highway network are still inundated and a number of rail lines are not operational.
Auckland is still in an emergency, with a ratings reconsideration on Friday. There are no longer any weather warnings in the city.
Heavy rain warnings remain in effect on the Coromandel Peninsula, east of Auckland, as state highways are closed and homes teeter on the verge of slips. Alerts have been lifted for the Bay of Plenty and Northland.
Forecasters warned of heavy rain in Auckland ahead of the flood on Friday, but the frightening speed and volume of the downpour – which saw 250mm of rain hit parts of the city’s north, south and west – surprised many.
A slow subtropical low pressure system over Auckland unleashed heavy rain, which was intensified by wet La Niña conditions and an offshore heat wave that had already brought an unusually hot and humid summer to New Zealand.
The city’s mayor, Wayne Brown, drew criticism for what his critics said was poor communication and a late response time from his office as the downpour intensified. Brown was revealed in leaked WhatsApp group chat messages To bemoan canceling a tennis match the next day to “deal with the media drongos”.
On Monday, Brown said he had done nothing wrong but would launch an independent review of the flood response. Chris Hipkins, New Zealand’s prime minister, announced a new minister for Auckland in the cabinet reshuffle on Tuesday.
As the cleanup begins, the disaster raises concerns about the mounting cost of the climate crisis to New Zealand, which In 2022 new records are set For severe weather claims.
Economists also warned that the floods could contribute to inflationary pressures for the country through higher prices for fresh produce, rents, transportation and construction in the short term. The New Zealand Herald reported.