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For only the third time since its existence, New Zealand has declared a state of emergency.

Although the cyclone has now moved away from the North Island, a third of the country’s five million people live in areas that were affected by Cyclone Gabrielle.

At least three people have died as many were forced to evacuate and swim to safety while others were rescued from rooftops.

Communication with a town on the North Island has been completely cut when a river burst its banks. Many people have already been warned that they could be without electricity for weeks.

One of the three people who have died is a missing firefighter who was caught in a landslide just west of Auckland. A second firefighter was involved, but narrowly escaped death and was critically injured.

The BBC reports that civil defence authorities in the region said they couldn’t cope with the scale of the damage. Australia and the United Kingdom have pledged to help.

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Chris Hipkins pledged NZ$11.5 million in aid with the aim of supporting those affected by the cyclone.

“The severity and the damage that we are seeing has not been experienced in a generation. We are still building a picture of the effects of the cyclone as it continues to unfold. But what we do know is the impact is significant and it is widespread.”

Image credit: CNN

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