New Zealand authorities warned Monday that the situation in flood-hit Auckland was likely to worsen after “unprecedented” rainfall brought devastating floods that have killed at least four people and forced hundreds to evacuate in the country’s largest city.
On Monday, New Zealand’s weather authority issued a red heavy rain warning – the highest level reserved for extreme weather events – for Auckland and the nearby Northland region for the coming days.
“Tuesday is the day we are most concerned about,” the MetService told CNN. “We are really concerned for the areas north of Auckland. They seem to bear the brunt of the next heavy rainfall event.”
Luis Fernandes, a meteorologist at the MetService, said the heavy rainfall would also put Auckland at risk of land slips, which are similar to landslides.
“When you have a significant rainfall event like this, rivers can rise quickly, and roads can literally fall away or become covered and can cut off communities,” he said.
An estimated 240 millimeters of rainfall (9.8 inches) – equal to an entire summer’s worth of rain – fell on Auckland Friday, making it the city’s wettest day on record.
Scientists have been warning for years that the climate crisis would amplify extreme weather, making it deadlier and more frequent. On Sunday night, New Zealand Climate Change Minister James Shaw underscored the link, tweeting “This is climate change” in a post thanking those assisting with flood relief efforts.
The north of New Zealand’s North Island is also receiving more rain than normal due to the La Niña climate pattern cycles in the Pacific Ocean that affect weather worldwide.
And the MetService said another 80 to 120 mm of rainfall was expected over the next few days.
Auckland’s deputy mayor Desley Simpson told CNN Sunday this amount of rain is “pretty unprecedented for Auckland.”
“We have had more rain in four hours than we have had ever in the history of Auckland since we have started measuring rainfall,” she said.
Meanwhile, New Zealand police said Sunday that the body of a man declared missing after being swept away by floodwaters Friday is believed to have been found.
A drone operator located the body in the Onewhero area, south of Auckland, about 1 kilometer (0.6 miles) downstream from where he went missing, police said.
On Monday, New Zealand Prime Minister Chris Hipkins said there had been “very significant damage across Auckland.”
“Obviously there were a number of homes damaged by flooding but also extensive earth movements,” he told public broadcaster TVNZ. Some 350 people needed emergency accommodation, he added.
The rain also caused widespread travel disruption over the weekend.
More than 2,000 people stayed overnight Friday in the airport’s terminals due to the flooding, the airport said. Domestic flights resumed Saturday but the international terminal was not operational until Sunday.
All classes in Auckland have been canceled until February 7, Auckland MP Chlöe Swarbrick said Monday.