Severe flooding forced thousands to flee homes in New Zealand

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Thousands of residents have been forced to flee their homes on Wednesday due to heavy rains in South Island of New Zealand. Hundreds of tourists are stranded at the remote Milford Sound.

The Southland region declared a state of emergency after being deluged with more than 1,000 millimetres (39 inches) of rainfall in 60 hours, triggering landslides on large roads and causing rivers to burst their banks.

Authorities told residents in the low-lying areas of Gore and Mataura to evacuate immediately early on Wednesday as floodwaters in the Mataura river peaked, warning those further downstream in Wyndham to prepare to leave.

“We have issued notices to evacuate and to prepare to evacuate to 6,000 people across the region,” an Emergency Management Southland (EMS) spokeswoman told AFP news agency.

Residents were advised to grab medication, clothing and identification documents, then head to higher ground.

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Air NZ perspective of Gore this morning