Cyclone Debbie forces evacuations in New Zealand

Indo Asian News Service

Wellington, April 6 (IANS) At least 4,000 people were on Thursday evacuated in two towns of New Zealand's North Island owing to Cyclone Debbie, which killed five people in Australia.

Two thousand residents were evacuated from Edgecumbe in North Island after the Rangitaiki river inundated several houses close to the shore, Efe news reported.

A state of emergency was declared in neighbouring Whakatane, where another 2,000 people were evacuated.

According to official forecast, the water level of the Rangitaiki river will only begin to subside on Friday.

The police are patrolling these areas in boats to prevent the looting of abandoned houses, the New Zealand Herald reported, and added that all highways leading to these cities have been blocked.

Over a hundred schools remained closed on Thursday, the Education Ministry said.

Debbie became a category 4 storm while passing through Australia, where it displaced 90,000 people.

The storm was also declared a "catastrophe" due to its economic impact on the tourist and agricultural sectors in New South Wales.

Debbie is the most powerful cyclone to hit Australia since Yasi, which in 2011 caused giant waves and extensive damage in low-lying areas.