Christchurch, New Zealand: Authorities in Canterbury, New Zealand, announced a state of emergency on Sunday as the region was hammered by heavy rain, which might force thousands of people to from their homes.
Acting Emergency Management Minister Kris Faafoi said roughly 3,000 homes were in peril, and the army had been ready to assist with evacuations if necessary.
“The rain is going to stick around until at least tomorrow. It will be heavy and the authorities will be watching those river levels tonight,” Faafoi said.
The New Zealand Meteorological Service has issued an unusual “red” warning for the area, with inland parts expecting up to 300 millimeters (11.8 inches) of rain.
Forecasters predicted roughly 100 mm of rain in coastal Christchurch, Canterbury’s largest city, much over the monthly total average for May.
The state of emergency was proclaimed because officials couldn’t afford to take any chances, according to Canterbury Civil Defence emergency management group controller Neville Reilly, who spoke to the New Zealand Herald.
“There’s a lot of contingency planning going on so that if something untoward should happen we are in a position to get people out and give them somewhere to go,” he said.
“Really we’re just holding our breath overnight.”
The mayor of Ashburton, Neil Brown, indicated that if the Ashburton River bursts its banks, 4,000 people could be forced to flee their homes.