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Heavy rains pelt New Zealand, forcing hundreds to evacuate

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WELLINGTON, New Zealand Heavy rain continued to pelt New Zealand on Thursday, causing further disruptions and road closures from the storm which has already forced a huge selection of visitors to evacuate their homes.

Residents in the northern section of North Island found themselves isolated after landslides, fallen trees and floodwaters blocked highway access. The stormy weather also forced some schools to close, airlines to cancel flights and business to shutter.

The storm sunk a minumum of one sailboat near Auckland and caused a house to slip into a gully in the city of Thunanui.

About 230 homes in the city of Nelson were evacuated Wednesday and remained off-limits overnight following the Maitai River flooded. The military patrolled the region overnight.

Resident Robin Reichert told news outlet Items that she was utterly shocked when her street converted into a raging torrent.

Within a few minutes its a river, she said. Thats how fast it happens.

Another 160 homes in the city of Westport were also temporarily evacuated with residents later permitted to return.

Roads through the entire nation were closed because of flooding and landslides.

In the Buller region, Mayor Jamie Cleine told reporters that the rain had up to now been less than forecast but there is more rain along the way.

Right over the district I really believe we’ve got away relatively unscathed, Cleine said. Some individuals that did elect to self-evacuate yesterday evening have already been told today that its reasonably safe, should they feel OK, to return with their properties today to check on them out while we’ve this lull.

Cleine warned that more rain was forecast.

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