July 27, 2008

At Least 3 Dead As Storm Lashes N. Zealand

At least three people were reported killed in one of the worst storms to hit the North Island of New Zealand in years.

The body of James Moore, a 33-year-old rafting guide, was recovered Sunday, The New Zealand Herald reported. Moore was one of a group of four people who tried to paddle in outrigger canoes from Maketu to Bay of Plenty on the west coast south of Auckland Saturday afternoon.

Two others died when their fishing boat ran aground.

About 60,000 homes and businesses lost power as winds of more than 100 mph hit the North Island. Several thousand were still without electricity Sunday.

Vector, the power company, said it planned to use helicopters to survey the damage and warned that some people might have to wait days.

At Mt. Ruapehu, thousands of skiers were forced off the slopes by the weather.

The rain brought flooding that closed roads, and wind and waves ripped boats from their moorings. In Auckland, weather-related calls swamped the fire service.