New Zealand troops have been deployed to the South Island to help evacuate hundreds of people living in areas hit by severe flooding after heavy rains.
The rivers rose from their basins after 400 mm of rain fell in two days, which is more than it was since the beginning of the year in some areas.
The authorities declared a “red” weather alert, which is rare, as well as a state of emergency in the Canterbury region, the heart of the country’s agricultural activity.
The military said one of its helicopters in particular rescued three people in the town of Ashburton, near Christchurch, and found a man from a tree and an elderly couple trapped on the roof of a car.
Soldiers, trucks and an army ambulance take part in the evacuations.
Ashburton Mayor Neil Brown said the city’s 35,000 residents are now cut off from the world.
Local media reported that 300 homes were evacuated and residents moved to schools and gyms.
The weather should improve overnight.
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