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New Zealand may need billions of dollars to recover from Hurricane Gabriel

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New Zealand said it may need billions of dollars to recover from Hurricane Gabriel as the country extended its national state of emergency for another week.

Premier Chris Hepkins confirmed 11 deaths so far following flash floods and high winds that swept the North Island last week.

“Our thoughts remain with the families and communities grieving for their loved ones at such a difficult time,” he added.

The final death toll could rise, Hipkins warned, but the number of people police are still looking to contact has fallen to around 2,300.

The full extent of the tornado’s destruction became more apparent, as highways, power, and communications were re-established.

The massive torrents of floodwater unleashed by the cyclone swept away or severely damaged homes, businesses, bridges and roads across New Zealand.

Finance Minister Grant Robertson on Monday pledged NZ$300 million ($187 million) in relief.

Robertson warned that the money pledged so far would only “scratch” the final figure needed, which he expects to cost taxpayers “billions of dollars.”

“We have a long task ahead of us to rebuild after this disaster,” warned Robertson, who was also appointed by Hipkins as Hurricane Recovery Minister, “but we have the resources and the will to do it.”

According to Hepkins, 15,000 households in the North Island remain without power, mostly in the east coast towns of Gisborne and Napier, where floodwaters have washed away many homes.

After spending the weekend visiting hard-hit communities, Hipkins said the national emergency declared last week has been extended for another seven days.

“While some areas have begun working to recover, others are still in the emergency response phase,” he added.

This is only the third time in New Zealand’s 183-year history that a national emergency has been declared.

The other two are the Christchurch attacks of 2019 and the COVID-19 pandemic.

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