WELLINGTON (Reuters) - Flash floods and incessant torrential rains in New Zealand's South Island have left several hundred tourists stranded for days and forced many residents to evacuate their homes, authorities said on Wednesday.
Rivers are overflowing and power supply has been cut to thousands of residents in the Southland region, as civil defence declared a state of emergency in the area and asked people in low-lying areas to evacuate immediately.
Earlier this week, rescue teams airlifted some of the nearly 500 stranded tourists in the remote Milford Sound region after torrential rains cut road access to the popular tourist destination.
Many of these tourists and hotel staff are still stuck in the area as road access remains cut off.
"A lot of people have been evacuated from their homes, have suffered flood damage to their properties or are disrupted by road and school closures," Rural Communities Minister Damien O’Connor said in a statement, adding that he was preparing to visit the region.
"I urge people to put safety first, listen to the advice of authorities, and look out for each other," he added.
People in the Southland towns of Gore and Mataura have been ordered to evacuate immediately while residents of Wyndham and Riversdale are being asked to prepare to evacuate. Teams of police went door to door on Wednesday to ensure people were leaving, local media reported.
Large swathes of farmland were underwater and state highways in the area remain closed. Farmers in the area have been warned to move their livestock.
Civil defence officials have said it could be several days before the water level in the rivers returns to normal.
(Reporting by Praveen Menon in Wellington; Editing by Matthew Lewis)
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