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Troops deployed as Cyclone Gita prompts state of emergency in New Zealand

"The next 24 hours is critical", the military warns after Cyclone Gita causes blackouts, closes schools and hits water supplies.

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Debris is carried by a river in Bainham, in New Zealand's South Island. Pic: Billy Haldane

New Zealand's defence force has been deployed as the country endures a battering from the remains of Cyclone Gita.

Power cuts have affected thousands of homes across the country, dozens of schools have been closed in the upper South Island and there were reports of water supply problems.

Some flights in and out of the capital Wellington and a number of other cities have been cancelled with authorities warning of heavy rain and gusts of up to 93mph.

New Zealand's Met Service said the biggest wind gusts so far had been recorded in the Taranaki region, with 81mph over the town of Hawera.

It added that "significant wave heights of around nine metres" were being recorded off the Taranaki coast.

A state of emergency has been declared in seven provinces including Taranaki, Nelson Tasman, Westland and Christchurch.

The town of Takaka, at the top of the South Island, is also thought to have been badly affected and a refuge centre has been opened for residents.

New Zealand Civil Defence warned people to expect flooding in the town's main street "over the next few hours".

Nelson City Council communications manager Paul Shattock told local media the military had been deployed in Takaka and was helping to get people to safety.

Major General Tim Gall, Commander Joint Forces New Zealand, said military personnel had been assigned to work with all regional emergency operation centres in areas affected by the cyclone, which has since been downgraded to an ex-cyclone.

He said: "We stand ready to help and have personnel and trucks that can be mobilised as quickly as possible.

"The next 24 hours is critical and we are ready to provide timely and effective support if required."In Christchurch, a city still rebuilding following a devastating earthquake in 2011, the council said the wastewater system was "coming under pressure due to infiltration and inflow from the rain during the storm".

Some of the country's picturesque hiking tracks, popular with tourists, were closed and a stretch of State Highway One along the South Island's east coast was shut.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said: "My message, still, to people is please look out for your local warnings and expect disruption to travel and please just be careful."

The cyclone hit the Pacific islands of Fiji and Tonga last week, bringing with it winds of up to 171mph and causing massive damage and flooding.




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