April 10, 2018 / 10:33 PM / 15 days ago

Storm hits New Zealand commercial center of Auckland, leaving thousands without power

WELLINGTON (Reuters) - Gale-force winds battered New Zealand’s largest city, Auckland, leaving thousands without power on Wednesday morning as authorities urged residents to stay home.

Gusts as high as 146 km (90 miles) an hour tore down trees and power lines overnight, leaving more than 100,000 homes and businesses without power and likely taking days to fix, according to electricity distributor Vector.

The country’s national carrier Air New Zealand urged travelers to defer any non-urgent trips as flights were disrupted by the weather.

“Air New Zealand is experiencing significant disruption across its network today as a result of weather conditions and the temporary closure of the Auckland Airport runway last night which required a number of flights to divert to other ports,” the company said in an emailed statement.

Roads were littered with debris and some traffic lights were out, prompting authorities to request the more than 1.3 million residents of New Zealand’s commercial capital to stay home if possible.

“There is damage across Auckland this morning after last night’s severe storm ... please only travel if you have to,” Auckland City Council said on its website.

The storm, which was expected to continue for the next few days, started pummeling the country on Tuesday, bringing unseasonable autumn snow to parts of the South Island and small tornados in the central north island.

Heavy rains and snow were expected to continue for the next few days and the country’s Metservice issued a warning for more severe winds in Auckland, expected to hit on Thursday night.

Reporting by Charlotte Greenfield; editing by Matthew Lewis and Richard Pullin

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