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New Zealand gauges flood damage

June 1, 2021

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern toured the worst-hit region while her government promised cash for farmers after around three months' rain fell in three days.

An aerial view shows the flooded town of Selwyn Huts, south of Christchurch, New Zealand
The Canterbury region was hit hardest by devastating floodsImage: Chris Skelton/AP Photo/picture alliance

New Zealanders in the country's South Island took stock of the damage left by flooding, following days of torrential rainfall.

The country's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern visited the hard-hit Canterbury region as floodwaters began receding on Tuesday.

"It's quite devastating, there's a lot of work to do — a big clean-up job lies ahead of us," Ardern told reporters after surveying the damage in a military helicopter.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, left, gestures while flying over flood affected areas around Selwyn Huts
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern assessed the flood damage in a military helicopterImage: Chris Skelton/AP Photo/picture alliance

Jacinda Ardern visits Canterbury region

It was "a real priority" to restore road and rail links to connect thousands of people back to their town, schools and places of work, Ardern said.

Around 35,000 people in Ashburton had been left isolated after floodwaters damaged a major bridge joining the town to the main highway south.

She added that farmers had been particularly hard hit, noting that they had lost feed and that floods broke fences and spread debris across their fields.

An aerial view shows the Ashburton bridge damaged in recent flooding south of Christchurch, New Zealand
The floodwaters damaged a major bridge linking the town of Ashburton to a main roadImage: Chris Skelton/AP Photo/picture alliance

Supporting farmers

In a move set to unlock financial support for farmers, New Zealand declared the flooding an "adverse event."

Some 500,000 New Zealand dollars ($364,245, €297,585) would be available for flood recovery measures, Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor announced on Tuesday.

"The funding will help speed up the recovery of farming businesses, and includes well-being support and specialist technical advice," O'Connor said.

The floods hit during the start of New Zealand's dairy season when a large number of dairy farming employees typically move to new farms.

 An aerial view taken from a New Zealand Defence Force helicopter shows flooded fields
The floods hit on 'Moving Day,' the start of the New Zealand's important dairy seasonImage: Chris Skelton/AFP

How widespread was the damage?

As much as 40 centimeters (16 inches) of rain fell over three days in the Canterbury region.

The highest rainfall was at Mount Somers, which recorded 539 millimeters (21.2 inches) over the three-day period, according to the official MetService forecaster.

a road damaged by floodwaters
Many roads were damaged by floodwaters in the Canterbury regionImage: Chris Skelton/AP Photo/picture alliance

As a result of the flooding this caused, several hundred people were told to leave their homes and schools were closed. The military helped more than 50 people leave their homes.

But there was no major damage to homes or loss of life — a truck driver was killed Monday when a tree fell on the truck, but it was not clear whether flooding or heavy rain was a factor.

kmm/msh (AFP, dpa, AP)