New Zealand storm disrupts harvest

Charnae Tiquia left and Frances Abary were stuck at Wellington Airport

Dozens of schools across the country have been closed and power outages are reported throughout thousands of homes.

Buller, Selwyn District, Grey District, Westland, Taranaki, Nelson Tasman and Christchurch have all declared a state of emergency.

Christchurch on New Zealand's South Island has declared a state of emergency as former cyclone Gita approaches the country.

Nearly 200 schools were shut, and New Zealand's national airline cancelled all flights to and from the capital, Wellington.

Even before the storm hit in full force, heavy rains in the centre of New Zealand brought floods in Christchurch, prompting a warning from Mayor Lianne Dalziel.

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It then rapidly strengthened as it grazed Niue and headed towards the islands of Tonga, which was badly hit.

The council has urged people to stay inside and not to travel unless it is absolutely necessary.

Residents in low-lying areas had been urged to evacuate as security forces were deployed to areas most vulnerable to the expected 150 kph winds and torrential rains where trees, power lines and buildings could be damaged. "We are expecting homes to be flooded". Earlier, the storm had caused extensive damage in Samoa and American Samoa. Passengers are still able to fly in and out of Blenheim, Kapiti Coast and Palmerston North airports, but the airline has said it is monitoring the situation.

India in contributing $1 million for relief efforts in the Pacific Ocean Kingdom of Tonga that was devastated by Cyclone Gita last week, according to the UN.

"The high-impact severe weather across central New Zealand should then ease as Gita moves away on Wednesday", a MetService forecast said.

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