WELLINGTON, Jan 5 (Reuters) - A huge storm battered New Zealand’s North Island on Friday, leaving tens of thousands of homes without power and forcing evacuations in low-lying areas. The county’s official meteorology service said the storm, which began on Thursday, would continue to cause havoc as it moved south towards the capital, Wellington.
New Zealand’s largest city, Auckland, was pummelled by two months’ worth of rain in 24 hours, according to the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research, prompting authorities to shut major roads and cancel ferry services.
In Kaiaua, a seaside town south of Auckland, local authorities called for residents to immediately evacuate on Friday morning as strong tides submerged land along the coast.
Winds of up to 128 kilometres (79.5 miles) an hour tore off roofs, felled trees and ripped boats from their moorings overnight, according to local media.
More than 20,000 households had been left without power, including 12,000 in Auckland, according to the New Zealand Herald newspaper.
Electricity providers said they were working to urgently fix dozens of separate power outages centering around Auckland.
Air New Zealand said on Twitter that flights could be affected by the bad weather across the country.
The storm was a dramatic interlude in an unusually dry summer period, which has led to drought in many of the country’s farming regions and curbed production of milk, New Zealand’s most lucrative goods export. (Reporting by Charlotte Greenfield, Editing by Rosalba O’Brien)