February 3, 2020 / 5:02 AM / 15 days ago

Stranded tourists airlifted in New Zealand as rains lash Milford Sound

A road is partially submerged in floodwaters in Southland, New Zealand, February 3, 2020, in this image obtained via social media. New Zealand Transport Agency via REUTERS

WELLINGTON (Reuters) - Authorities were preparing on Monday to airlift a busload of stranded tourists from New Zealand’s remote Milford Sound region after torrential rains cut road access to the popular tourist destination.

A state of emergency has been declared and 382 people were trapped in the Fiordland region, including visitors and staff at a lodge and on tourist boats, the region’s emergency management controller Angus McKay said in a statement.

“They have plenty of food and are safe and warm,” said McKay, adding that most would likely stay for at least the next day in Milford Sound, which has suffered severe flooding after heavy rain in the last 24 hours.

Meanwhile, authorities were preparing to airlift a busload of about 27 tourists from one part of the severely flooded region, with roads to the area likely to be shut all week, the New Zealand Transport Agency said in a statement.

A small number of tourists was also earlier flown to safety by helicopter, the agency said.

The spectacular fjord on the west coast of the South Island was carved out by ancient glaciers and features towering mountains, waterfalls, and rare marine habitats.

Reporting by Praveen Menon; editing by Richard Pullin

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