Authorities declared a state of emergency in West Coast on the evening (local time) of Tuesday, March 26, after severe weather brought heavy rain and damaging winds to the area. The rains, which started on Sunday, March 24, resulted in accumulations of up to 68 cm (26 in) in some areas, while the highest totals were recorded in Cropp River at 106 cm (43 in). As of 11:00 on Wednesday, March 27, the state of emergency remains in place for the Westland district and significant transportation disruptions are ongoing. Major flooding completely washed out the Waiho Bridge near Franz Josef on Tuesday and caused authorities to close highways in the region. As of Wednesday morning, State Highway 6 remains closed between Hokitika and Makarora, as well as State Highway 73 at Kumara and other local roads throughout Westland district. Residual transportation disruptions are expected in the coming days. Power disruptions have also been reported in Haast and inland from Hokitika; repair crews have been deployed to restore power as soon as possible.
Authorities have confirmed one fatality due to the flooding as of Wednesday: a woman was swept away by waters in Arahura Valley, north of Hokitika, after reportedly attempting to cross floodwaters. No further rain is forecast until the weekend.
Individuals in the affected areas are advised to monitor local weather reports, adhere to instructions issued by local authorities, anticipate flooding and associated transportation disruptions, including road closures, limited access to healthcare services and other basic necessities, and remember that floodwater may contain wastewater and chemical products; all items having come into contact with floodwater should be disinfected and all foodstuffs discarded.
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