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Severe weather watch as Cyclone Gita heads to NZ

21 February 2018

Air New Zealand warned on Monday flights in and out of New Zealand faced major disruptions this week due to Cyclone Gita, set to hit the country on Tuesday, and encouraged passengers to defer traveling.

However, the storm has downgraded significantly, though residents have been told to brace for floods and winds of up to 150km/h.

A farm in Bainham was also flooded on Tuesday. Dozens of tourists became trapped in Whataroa, including 42 from China who spent the night in their buses and 25 others who sought refuge in the township's community center.

Many schools and roads have been closed while, New Zealand's national airline has cancelled all flights in and out of the capital, Wellington, on North Island.

"The full impact of the storm will be felt overnight and tomorrow morning", said Christchurch Mayor, Lianne Dalziel.

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Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said that troops had been sent out to areas that were likely to be hardest hit by the storm.

Two visitors from Boston in USA were right at home, telling 1 NEWS "we came here expecting to see handsome sunny skies and we're happy to see snow though, it kind of feels like home".

Cyclone Gita hit the Pacific island nations of Fiji and Tonga last week, packing winds up to 275 km per hour and causing widespread destruction and flooding.

Forecasters said Gita would move toward the upper South Island Tuesday evening, and into the southeast on Wednesday.

Severe weather watch as Cyclone Gita heads to NZ