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At least 4 dead in cyclone-hit New Zealand planning final rescue operations

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At least four people have so far died in a cyclone that hit New Zealand earlier this week.

Local authorities expect to conduct their final rescue operations on Wednesday after Hurricane Gabriel caused widespread flooding and landslides.

It hit the north of the country on Monday, wreaking more havoc on this nation of 5 million people than any weather event in decades.

Police said the storm had confirmed the deaths of at least four people, including a child who was caught in rising waters on Tuesday in Escdale on Hawke’s Bay. All four deaths occurred near the same bay on the east coast of the North Island.

The body of a volunteer firefighter was recovered Wednesday from a landslide that destroyed a flooded home near Auckland, a police statement said. Another firefighter was seriously injured in the same landslide Monday night.

Police said a woman was also killed in a landslide in Putorino and a body was found on a beach in Napier on Tuesday.

Police said 1,442 people were reported uncontactable in the North Island on Wednesday afternoon. The high number can be explained by widespread disturbances in telecommunications and power.

About 144,000 properties in the North Island were without power on Wednesday, the New Zealand Herald reports, down from 225,000 on Tuesday.

Authorities said a weather station in Hawke’s Bay and the Napier region recorded three times more rain overnight Monday than it usually falls throughout the entire month of February.

Save them from the rooftops

Emergency Management Minister Kieran McNulty said more than 300 people had been rescued Tuesday from the same flooded Bay Area, including 60 stranded on one roof.

The helicopters will assist with the final 25 rescues of individuals and family groups on Wednesday.

“Our emergency services are still carrying out rescue operations and ground searches in a number of places,” McNulty told reporters.

Princess Anne, sister of Britain’s King Charles III, visited New Zealand’s disaster management headquarters in the capital Wellington on Wednesday and praised the country’s response. She was due to visit New Zealand before the cyclone hit.

“My thoughts are with all New Zealanders whose homes or livelihoods have been affected by Hurricane Gabriel,” she said in a statement.

“I admire the courage of the people of Aotearoa during this troubling and difficult time,” she said, using the country’s name in the Maori language.

“You should all be proud of the resilience, strength and care you have shown for your communities in the face of adversity,” she added.

He said about 9,000 people have been forced from their homes since Monday, with several communities cut off by floodwaters and landslides.

“Everyone knows we have a long way to go as we deal with massive damage to homes, businesses, roads, bridges and other essential parts of our infrastructure,” McNulty said. “This is a major disaster and it will take several weeks for the worst affected areas to recover,” he added.

Auckland was hit by a record-breaking storm two weeks ago that claimed four lives.

A national emergency was declared on Tuesday, to enable the government to support affected areas and provide additional resources. It is only the third national emergency ever.

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