New Zealand’s north island is being hit by Cyclone Cook, which many fear will be the severest storm in generations.
The country is still recovering from Cyclone Debbie which destroyed houses and saturated land with heavy rains. It left the town of Edgecumbe flooded by thigh-high water with many people still unable to return to their homes.
Cook made landfall over the Bay of Plenty at six thirty pm local time and is expected to move on to South Island on Friday.
It has already passed over New Caledonia where a boy drowned and nearly ten thousand people were left without power.
The Meteorological service issued severe weather warnings for the upper North Island and warned of landslides, flooding and wind damage from gusts of up to 140 kilometres (93.2 miles) per hour.
“We’re worried,” Tony Bonne, the mayor of Whakatane district, one of the areas expected to bear the brunt of the storm, said on local radio.
Seaside areas of the Coromandel Peninsula, north of Auckland were being evacuated and people told to take shelter in Civil Defence centres, although disaster management agency said it did not yet know how many people would have to leave their homes.
More than 100 schools were shut and universities in Auckland were closing early on Thursday.
Disaster authorities asked people to avoid hardest-hit towns and reconsider their travels over the four-day Easter weekend.
National airline Air New Zealand warned of “significant disruption” from the weather with many flights likely to be delayed or cancelled.
The New Zealand Transport Agency said it was considering closing the Auckland Harbour Bridge, a major thoroughfare in the country’s largest city.