New Zealand announces NZ$700,000 in additional flood support as cleanup begins

By Lucy Craymer

WELLINGTON, Feb 2 (Reuters) - New Zealand's government on Thursday announced NZ$700,000 ($450,000) in additional funding to help rebuild flood-ravaged Auckland and other areas in the upper north island as residents of the country's second-largest city start cleaning up.

Auckland and much of New Zealand’s upper North Island have been hit by record rainfall in the last week, which authorities say has been exacerbated at least in part by climate change.

Four people died in flooding and landslides that left roads closed, cut off communities, and damaged homes, farms and businesses.

“The main thing that we have to do right now is to support people through this immediate period,” New Zealand Prime Minister Chris Hipkins said on Thursday. “Of course, the government is going to continue to look at how best we can support people whose lives have been turned upside down.”

The worst of the rain has passed from Auckland, although some showers are expected Thursday afternoon, according to weather provider MetService. However, rain warnings remain in place for the regions southeast of Auckland.

“Rain falling onto already sodden ground will pool faster and impacts/delays should be expected where heavy rain falls,” MetService meteorologist Lewis Ferris said in a statement.

People in the city of 1.6 million are being asked to stay out of the sea and floodwaters because of fears of contamination. Two hundred high-rise buildings don't have lifts operating, causing challenges for residents. Evacuation centres remain open across the city. Summers in New Zealand usually bring some rain, but the region is experiencing the La Nina weather system, which can bring much heavier rain to the upper North Island. (Reporting by Lucy Craymer. Editing by Gerry Doyle)