18 Feb 2023

Cyclone Gabrielle: Death toll rises, thousands uncontactable and landslide risk in Auckland

8:05 pm on 18 February 2023
Flood damage in the Esk Valley in Hawke’s Bay.

Flood damage in the Esk Valley in Hawke’s Bay. Photo: RNZ / Tess Brunton

Volunteers in the Hawke's Bay town of Waipawa say they're blown away by the community recovery effort following Cyclone Gabrielle.

The Waipawa Municipal Theatre is an official evacuation centre, but volunteer Sara Corbett says it has become the place to go for people seeking help - including many who had been left with nothing.

She says the centre was also acting as a distribution hub for the huge amount of kai people had donated, as well as other items such as blankets and kitchen goods.

"We've got all businesses working together really, heaps of people down at the local camp grounds and set up in the middle of the streets that are mostly affected, and they're just out just helping out at whoever's house doing whatever needs to be done, until it's done."

She says there are many strong leaders within communities who have come to the fore.

Meanwhile, people delivering essential supplies in the aftermath of Cyclone Gabrielle are being threatened, as the death toll from the storm continues to rise.

Speaking at today's official government update, Emergency Management acting director Roger Ball said he had received concerning reports of threatening behaviour towards delivering and restocking essential supplies.

"Please, I do understand the stress that many of you will be going through, but it's absolutely essential that the people delivering supplies are able to do their job without anybody hassling them. Otherwise it's going to take far longer to get everything restocked."

Meanwhile, police are investigating a death in the Hawke's Bay region in the aftermath of Cyclone Gabrielle. The body was found this morning and police believe the death was related to the cyclone. That brings the death toll from the storm to nine, including a child and two firefighters.

Police deputy commissioner Glenn Dunbier said today police did not have any confirmation of further bodies of cyclone victims, despite rumours being rife in the community.

See how the day's events unfolded with RNZ's live blog:

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