Cyclone Pam hits New Zealand
Ex-cyclone Pam is bearing down on the Chatham Islands after sweeping across northeastern New Zealand, bringing heavy rain but relatively little destruction.
Gisborne Civil Defence evacuated more than 100 people in the northern part of the Gisborne district on Monday and more were ready to go as a precaution against the rising sea, flooding and slips overnight.
Heavy rain fell across the region and strong offshore winds created nine-metre high waves but only minor damage was reported, Civil Defence said.
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Freedom campers were given "strong encouragement" to get out of flood-prone areas by Gisborne police.
Although the weather was not as destructive as expected in most areas, residents of Waihau Bay, 140km northeast of Whaktane, saw the high swells send sea water up State Highway 35 and onto nearby houses, although the road remained open.
Autahi Callaghan, a resident near Raukokore School on SH35, said on Monday morning it was worse than they thought it was going to be.
"We didn't expect it to be this bad, especially the wind and with [even] low tide being high. We're just worried about high tide now," she said.
"It's low tide now and the sea's come up to the road."
It had even "arrived at some people's doors", she said.
Callaghan had seen the sea wash up that far once before, but at high tide. This time rocks and logs were strewn across the road, she said.
Several roads across the Gisborne region were closed and the rough weather was expected to continue through the night before clearing on Tuesday.
Gales were expected to gust to 130kmh about parts of Gisborne and Hawke's Bay overnight.
Earlier in the day, Northland and Coromandel avoided much of Pam's wrath and the sun started to shine on Whangarei by late afternoon.
Around 1.30pm on Monday MetService said Pam was about 230km north and east of East Cape.
The attention had shifted to the Chathams, 750km to the east of the South Island, where the weather would deteriorate overnight and be at its worst by midday on Tuesday.
A state of local emergency was declared by Mayor Alfred Preece just after midday on Monday. "The reason for the declaration is the imminent arrival of Cyclone Pam combined with rural fires on the islands," he said.
Preece was in Christchurch on Monday morning and flew home on a charter flight due to the approaching ex-cyclone.
He arrived, with three extra civil defence staff on the plane, about 9am. The brunt of the event was expected between morning and midday on Tuesday, with average winds of between 90kmh and 110kmh, he said.
"It was very calm this morning and [the wind] has slowly picked up all day."
Low-lying areas had been evacuated — mostly private properties, including about half of Kaingaroa village, Preece said.
MetService spokesman John Law said a close watch was being kept on the Chathams.
"The low pretty much runs right down towards them."
Severe gales with gusts up to 160kmh were expected from Monday night through to Wednesday morning, MetService said.
Peak winds were expected on Tuesday morning and early afternoon.
Meanwhile, the cleanup in Vanuatu continues, where winds reached 300kmh over the weekend and at least eight people died.
New Zealand Prime Minister John Key said an air force Hercules would be used to transport New Zealanders in urgent need of evacuation from Vanuatu.
Key said the Government had so far pledged $2.5 million to help with immediate relief and its efforts so far were focused on emergency relief.
Animated graphic shows Pam's course on Monday morning. Source: NOAA