Cyclone Cook: New Zealanders flee ahead of huge storm

Cyclone Cook: New Zealanders flee ahead of huge storm

Heavy rain has begun to hit New Zealand’s North Island, ahead of what is being called the worst storm in generations.

New Zealanders have evacuated towns along the north coast, where severe weather warnings are in place.

The storm is due to make landfall from 19:00 local time (07:00GMT) over Bay of Plenty. Officials have warned of high waves, storm surges and landslides.

It is then expected to move to the South Island early on Friday.

It comes after severe floods caused by the remnants of Cyclone Debbie hit some parts of the country last week.

The storm – expected to bring torrential rain and winds gusting at up to 150km/h (93mph) – has been classified as an extra-tropical cyclone.

That means it has changed into a different kind of weather system on approach to New Zealand, but has not necessarily weakened or been downgraded, according to the New Zealand MetService.

Parts of New Zealand’s North Island are now under a state of emergency, with residents in the low-lying parts of Coromandel, which has already seen landslips and closed roads, being told to leave immediately.

Schools and businesses across the island have been shut early while residents in Auckland, which has already seen flooding, have been stocking up on emergency supplies.

The New Zealand military and emergency service teams are on standby. Flights across the country have either been delayed or cancelled, and national carrier Air New Zealand has suspended operations from Tauranga Airport in the North Island.