Storm sweeps down country

A storm battering the country has left about 700 cruise boat passengers stranded overnight in Canterbury, uprooted trees and caused power outages as it travels across the country.

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WILD WEATHER: This tree fell down in in Whangarei, temporarily trapping two boys underneath it.
WILD WEATHER: This tree fell down in in Whangarei, temporarily trapping two boys underneath it.

The mostly American and European passengers from the Sea Princess cruise ship took shelter in the Akaroa Area School gymnasium, as the rough conditions have made it unsafe for them to return to the ship berthed in the harbour.

Carnival Australia spokesman David Jones said all passengers and crew were given beds by 25 hotels and motels in Akaroa and Christchurch last night.

"The authorities in Akaroa and Christchurch and the local tourism operators have been fantastic."

The ship was travelling from San Francisco to Sydney over 28 days and was meant to leave Akaroa about 5pm last night.

The passengers had been "very understanding of the situation", said Jones.

Bruce Hyland, owner of the Maison de la Mer lodge, said he had been contacted by the cruise company to see if any of the passengers could be accommodated on Saturday night.

"The ship came in this morning like it usually does, and the tourist all did their usual thing, looking around the area.

"But by 10am the weather was looking pretty nasty. Their ship is right in the middle of the harbour so it would be tough to get them on board in this."

Christchurch and Canterbury Tourism spokesperson Caroline Blanchfield said the situation was being handled well and that the Akaroa community had rallied together to accommodate the passengers.

Trees have come down "all over the place", including in rural Hamilton and west Auckland, police north communications sergeant Dan Weir said.

Police were advising people to avoid travelling unless necessary, but the wild weather has already forced many people across the country to spend their Saturday inside.

There have also been reports of power outages in North Canterbury.

Strong winds and heavy rain forced vehicles to pull to the side of the road on the West Coast.

Surface flooding was also forcing vehicles to pull over and anyone driving a caravan, campervan or motorcycle was urged by police to postpone their trip if travelling on the West Coast.

Heavy rain and winds caused several avalanches and slips in Milford Sound.

It moved north this morning and was expected to bring heavy rain to most regions, with large downpours due in the Central Plateau, Taranaki, the Tararua Range and the Bay of Plenty, according to MetService.

Another 100mm of rain may still accumulate in the ranges of Westland, Buller and Nelson.

Severe gales which have swept north across the country could reach 130kmh between Marlborough and Gisborne.

Southwest gales with severe gale gusts were also expected in Banks Peninsula and the Kaikoura Coast.

While the high winds and heavy rains in Wellington were set to fade slightly tonight, so would the temperatures, MetService forecaster John Law said.

''Essentially it's a very unsettled day.

''It's not feeling very pleasant.''

MetService warned that rivers and streams, especially on the West Coast, may rise rapidly and slips and surface flooding could occur.

The strength of the wind had the potential to bring down powerlines and uproot trees.