Raging floods wash away a bridge in New Zealand

A state of emergency has been declared in parts of New Zealand as torrential rain and gale force winds continue to batter the country’s South Island.

Severe weather has lashed the west coast of the island since Sunday, causing rivers to swell and nearby residents to evacuate their homes.

The Waiho Bridge, which spans the same named river near Franz Josef, gave way to rough flood waters on Tuesday afternoon.

Dramatic footage captured the moment the structure collapsed, as the raging floodwaters tore down the overpass as levels rose to a staggering 7.6 metres.

Westland District Council chief executive Simon Bastion warned the river was at its highest level this side of March 2016, when it broke its banks and caused $30 million worth of damage, Stuff reported.

The district’s mayor Bruce Smith has labelled the freak weather a ‘100-year-event’ and moved to declare a state emergency in the area.

‘There is a huge amount of rain … I haven’t seen all of the rivers impacted in Westland at exactly the same time,’ he said.

While he said the safety of residents was the top priority, other residents in the area have directed their anger at authorities over the collapse of the Waiho Bridge.

Franz Josef resident Logan Skinner said he had told authorities as little as three days ago parts of the bridge would be too weak to withstand wild weather.

‘On Sunday, I sent them an email and warned them about it. We said the north abutment of the bridge will go because there’s rocks missing from it and it’s at risk. They came back and said nothing was wrong.’

As some residents lament the loss of the bridge, emergency services remain on standby as they prepare to evacuate people in the case the rain doesn’t let up.

Already farmers on the south side of the Waiho River have begun to self-evacuate.

The Wetland District Council said in a statement the Emergency Coordination Centre would toss up the necessity to evacuate the area.

Moving further south, Milford Sound has recorded more than 400mm of rain, since the end of the weekend, NZ Herald reported.

In the space of five hours overnight, 124mm fell in the area, averaging 30mm an hour.

About Michael Faga

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