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New Zealand plans final rescues soon after cyclone kills 2

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WELLINGTON, New Zealand — New Zealand authorities expect to make the final rescues Wednesday after a cyclone brought extensive flooding and landslides that claimed at least two lives.

Cyclone Gabrielle struck the country’s north on Monday and has brought more destruction to this nation of 5 million than any weather event in years.

The body of a volunteer firefighter was retrieved from a landslide that destroyed a flooded house near Auckland on Hawke’s Bay, Emergency Management Minister Kieran McAnulty said. A fellow firefighter was critically injured by the same landslide.

A woman was also killed by a landslide in the Hawke’s Bay area, he said.

A third body was found late Tuesday on the shore at the east coast town of Napier, but authorities have not attributed the death to the weather.

A weather station in the Hawke’s Bay and Napier region recorded three times more rain over Monday night than usually falls for the entire month of February, authorities said.

More than 300 people were rescued Tuesday from that flooded bay area on the North Island east coast, including 60 stranded on a single roof, McAnulty said. Helicopters would help make the final 25 rescues of individuals and family groups on Wednesday.

“Our emergency services are still carrying out rescues and land searches in a number of places,” McAnulty told reporters.

He did not know if the death toll from the disaster would rise above two.

“It wouldn’t surprise me, but I can’t say that there’s an expectation” of more fatalities, McAnulty said. “This has been a serious event. There are still rescues to happen.”

Around 9,000 people have been forced from their homes since Monday, with several communities isolated by floodwaters and landslides, he said.

“Everyone knows we have a long path ahead of us as we deal with extensive damage to homes, businesses, roads and bridges and other fundamental parts of our infrastructure,” McAnulty said. “This is a significant disaster and it is going to take many weeks for those areas most effected to recover.”

Auckland was swamped two weeks ago by a record-breaking storm that killed four people.

A national emergency was declared Tuesday, enabling the government to support affected regions and provide additional resources. It is only the third national emergency ever declared.

*This story has not been edited by The Infallible staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.