February 3, 2018 / 3:47 AM / 21 days ago

Hundreds of stranded tourists freed as roads reopen in New Zealand

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Hundreds of tourists trapped in a remote New Zealand town for 48 hours after a strong storm damaged roads were freed on Saturday after authorities cleared a highway.

About 600 tourists are now able to leave the remote town of Haast, 426 km (265 miles) northwest of Dunedin on the west coast of the South Island, a world heritage area famous for rugged scenery, after the road was cleared.

State Highway Six reopened at 11 a.m., the NZ Transport Agency told Reuters in an email.

“All stranded motorists have now been able to leave,” it said.

The road was hit by landslips as wild weather from former tropical cyclone Fehi wreaked havoc across the west coast, uprooting trees, felling power lines, collapsing a bridge and blocking roads.

A further 117 motorists stranded at Fox Glacier were also able to move on Saturday after roads were repaired, West Coast Civil Defence officials said by telephone.

The storm flooded the southern city of Dunedin and the west coast town of Buller, forcing authorities to declare a state of emergency and ask people not to travel by road.

Health authorities warned people to avoid contact with flood waters that could be contaminated by sewage, Radio NZ said.

Weather forecaster Metservice said storm-damaged areas on the west coast of the South Island would get a reprieve on Saturday with sheltered, sunny weather before more rain arrives, while heavy rains were forecast for the North Island around Auckland.

Reporting by Alison Bevege; Editing by Clarence Fernandez

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