In this image released by the New Zealand Defense Force on Feb 15, 2023, a road between Napier and Wairoa is washed out by floodwater in the aftermath of Cyclone Gabrielle. (PHOTO / AP)
WELLINGTON – A high school student is missing in Northland, New Zealand after getting into in difficulty on a school trip to caves on Tuesday, according to police, as heavy rain and thunderstorms cause flash flooding and landslides across the upper North Island.
Police rescue teams are in the area, which has been hit by heavy rain this morning with further rain expected this afternoon
New Zealand police Superintendent Tony Hill said in a statement that one person was missing at the Abbey Caves, near Whangarei, after a group of high school students got into difficulty.
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Local newspaper the Northern Advocate said the student was missing inside one of the caves, which is described as having a canyon-like feel.
Police rescue teams are in the area, which has been hit by heavy rain this morning with further rain expected this afternoon.
Rainfall is wreaking havoc across the region, with a number of main roads closed.
In the country's largest city Auckland, schools have been evacuated, roads and parks are flooded, and people have been told to prepared to leave homes if flash flooding occurs. A local state of emergency has been declared and an evacuation centre has been opened.
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"Auckland is experiencing widespread flooding and torrential rain. Please take care and follow advice," said the city's mayor, Wayne Brown.
Heavy rain and thunderstorms are forecast to drench the region into the evening and potentially through to midnight.
Auckland experienced serious flooding in January that killed four people, and then in February Cyclone Gabrielle caused widespread damage across much of the North Island and left at least 11 people dead.
New Zealand Treasury estimates the cost of those weather events at between NZ$9 billion ($5.71 billion) and NZ$14.5 billion.