Cyclone Gabrielle: Thousands displaced, communities remain cut off and death toll rises

Digger swamped with debris from cyclone on Pakōwhai road, Hastings

Digger swamped with debris from cyclone
Photo: Antonio Della Barca

The number of deaths linked to the winds, landslips and floodwaters caused by Cyclone Gabrielle has risen to eight, with police this afternoon confirming another death near Napier.

In a statement, police said they were investigating a death in Puketapu, west of Napier, and believed the person died after being caught in flood water.

Formal identification is yet to take place, but Stuff has reported that the flood victim was a 59-year-old woman whose body was found in her cottage’s roof cavity.

Earlier, Police Commissioner Andrew Coster said more than 4500 people have been reported as uncontactable after Cyclone Gabrielle, with 900 people found.

Coster spoke to media this afternoon at the Hawke’s Bay Emergency Management Group Centre in Hastings.

He said the scale of devastation was significant and he was blown away by the work police were doing as they had also been badly affected.

But he said there was no indication that the number of deaths was significantly larger than the seven that have been confirmed so far.

He said there was still a lot of work to do searching homes and if people were found, their family would be contacted first and media told.

Meanwhile, people in Gisborne are being warned to stop using water immediately until further notice.

The Gisborne District Council says the water treatment system has failed.

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