Thousands at risk of flooding in New Zealand’s Canterbury region

Thousands of homes were at risk of flooding in New Zealand’s Canterbury region on Sunday and people along the Ashburton River were preparing for a mass evacuation, authorities said, as continued heavy rain raised water levels.

Three thousand homes were at risk of flooding, the acting minister for emergency management Kris Faafoi said on Sunday, after New Zealand’s MetService issued a red warning for heavy rain for Canterbury and multiple warnings elsewhere.

“This is only the second red warning issued by MetService and will be a significant weather event,” the service said.

The Timaru and Ashburton districts declared a state of emergency, with some evacuations under way on Sunday, New Zealand media reported.

Neil Brown, the mayor of Ashburton, a town of about 35,000 people on New Zealand’s South Island, said that “half of Ashburton” could be forced to evacuate if the river broke its banks, the New Zealand Herald reported.

Heavy rain would continue into Monday, Faafoi said: “We’re watching the situation very carefully.”

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