Auckland, New Zealand starts clean-up after torrential rains, flash floods

SYDNEY, Jan 28 (Reuters) - Authorities in New Zealand's biggest city Auckland began mopping up on Saturday, a day after torrential rains brought flooding and evacuations, shutting airports and forcing organisers to cancel a scheduled concert by Elton John.

A state of emergency remained in place in the city of around 1.6 million people on New Zealand's north island as the rains eased after causing flooding in the north, northwest and west.

Auckland Emergency Management said daylight had revealed the first "true understanding" of the storm's impact.

“Auckland was clobbered on Friday – Auckland’s wettest day on record – and today we start the clean-up," the agency's duty controller Andrew Clark said in a statement, urging caution for residents returning to homes to survey flood damage.

“We won’t start to get a good idea of numbers affected until later today and, even then, this will take time, with information still coming in and many assessments to complete," he said.

Emergency Management Minister Kieran McAnulty tweeted that he and Prime Minister Chris Hipkins would visit Auckland on Saturday "to assess the damage from this event".

The nation's weather forecaster said while heavy rain had eased, another period of downpours was possible on Sunday.

Two men were found dead amid the flooding, New Zealand Police said. A search was underway for another man believed swept away.

Another person was unaccounted for after a landslide hit a house in Remuera, an inner suburb of Auckland, police said.

More than 2000 calls for assistance have been made around the city, the New Zealand Herald reported on Saturday

Auckland Airport AIA.NZ, which closed both domestic and international operations on Friday, remained shuttered, with a reopening scheduled Saturday afternoon.

Air New Zealand said it was "working through what its schedule will look like from midday today when Auckland Airport is scheduled to reopen." The airline had 12 international services due into Auckland diverted overnight.

On Friday, social media showed firefighters, police and defence force staff rescuing stranded people from flooded homes using ropes and rescue boats.

The flooding also forced cancellation of British musician Elton John's concert in the city. Some 40,000 people had been expected to attend.

(Reporting by Sam McKeith; Editing by David Gregorio)


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