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Cyclone Gabrielle worst storm to hit New Zealand this century, says PM

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New Zealand is in a national state of emergency, as Cyclone Gabrielle batters the country, with floods trapping people on roofs, thousands displaced and landslides destroying homes in what officials have described as an “unprecedented” natural disaster.

“Cyclone Gabrielle is the most significant weather event New Zealand has seen in this century. The severity and the damage that we are seeing has not been experienced in a generation,” the prime minister, Chris Hipkins, said on Tuesday. “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.”

About 2,500 people have been displaced so far, officials said on Tuesday afternoon – but that number may shift, as there are still large areas that are unreachable and cut off from telecommunications.

The country announced a national state of emergency on Tuesday as the scale of damage inflicted by the storm emerged.

The emergency management minister, Kieran McAnulty, said Gabrielle was “an unprecedented weather event”.

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