New Zealand fears more fatalities after cyclone kills 4

WELLINGTON, 15 Feb: A cyclone that left a devastating wake of extensive flooding and landslides in New Zealand has claimed at least four lives and police have “grave concerns” for other residents who remain unaccounted for, the prime minister said on Wednesday.
Cyclone Gabrielle struck the country’s north on Monday and has brought more destruction to this nation of 5 million than any weather event in decades.
Police said at least four people had been confirmed killed by the storm, including a child caught in rising water on Tuesday at Eskdale on Hawke’s Bay. All four fatalities occurred near the same North Island east coast bay, two in landslides and two by drowning.
A weather station in the Hawke’s Bay region recorded three times more rain over Monday night than usually falls for the entire month of February, authorities said.
Prime Minister Chris Hipkins said it was unclear how many people remained unaccounted for, with several communities still isolated by floodwaters, landslides and telecommu-nications outages.
Police said 1,442 people had been reported uncontac-table in the North Island as of Wednesday afternoon.
“We expect the vast majority of these people will be accounted for. However, there are several people missing for whom police do hold grave concerns,” Hipkins told reporters.
Hipkins said he could not put a figure on how many missing person reports were of grave concern.
He said 1,111 people had been reported found by Wednesday, which would cancel out some of those reported uncontactable. Around 9,000 people have been forced from their homes since Monday.
More than 300 people were rescued Tuesday from the Hawke’s Bay area, including 60 stranded on a single roof, an official said. The final 25 rescues of individuals and family groups were expected to be completed on Wednesday. (AP)