Asia-Pacific

As Australia burns, parts of New Zealand are reeling from massive flooding

An aerial shot of flooding of the Rangitata River in southern New Zealand. Source: Chris Lynch/Facebook

A state of emergency has been declared in parts of New Zealand's South Island after massive rainfalls over the weekend.

As Australia burns, New Zealand is counting the cost and patching up from a wet and wild weekend when massive rainfall has brought a state of emergency to parts of South Island.

Highway slips on the West Coast have stranded almost 1000 tourists according to Radio NZ, cutting off access to towns in the scenic but remote region.

On the other side of the island, evacuations have been ordered in Timaru district, between Christchurch and Dunedin, where flooding is endangering houses and has cut off State Highway 1.

1News reports the Rangitata River may reach its highest levels in 20 years after a major storm front ran up the country over the weekend.

More than 857,000 lightning strikes were recorded over New Zealand territory.

A number of South Island weather stations recorded more than 250mm of rain on Saturday alone - including tourist towns Queenstown and Wanaka, which have already measured three times their December average.

New Zealand's best-known tourist attraction, Milford Sound, has recorded 608mm in December's first week.

Wellingtonians bore the brunt of the storm on Saturday night, when booming thunder and gales over 100km/h kept many of the capital's residents awake.

A period of still weather is now allowing authorities to get to work on repair jobs.

"We've got a good couple of days of weather down there for the clean-up operation," meteorologist Andrew James said.

Chief among the work is repairing highways and roads on both sides of South Island.

Franz Josef, a tourist village close to a nearby glacier, will be cut off until at least Friday, with food supplies set to be flown in.

Scenic flight operators have also turned their hand to retrieval operations for people who can't wait out repairs to highways.

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