Weather: Nearly 1000 people stranded in Franz Josef

Chaotic weather continues to strike New Zealand on Sunday, bringing further devastation to regions suffering from Saturday's deluge.

What you need to know:

  • MetService has issued severe thunderstorm watches for much of the North Island
  • Some thunderstorms could be severe with possible small tornadoes
  • Major roads remain closed in the South Island due to torrential flooding and slips, including parts of SH1 and SH6
  • Communities have been cut off with the NZTA warning prolonged road closures are to be expected
  • A state of emergency has been declared in the Timaru District

These live updates are now over.

8:30pm - There's better news for Monday with forecasts for a cooler and drier day. There's the occasional isolated shower around the country however none of the heavy rain which has caused severe flooding.

7:15pm - West Coast Civil Defence controller John Canning says the number of tourists stuck in Franz Josef is now nearly 1000.

Road access out of the town won't be restored until at least Friday, Westland District Council Mayor Bruce Smith says.

The amount of food and drinkable water is being assessed.

6:35pm - There have been over 300,000 lightning strikes around New Zealand and its offshore waters on Sunday, according to NIWA.

Since midnight Friday, there have been around 857,000 strikes over the eastern Tasman and NZ regions in less than 72 hours.

5:40pm - NIWA says most of the South Island has already received more than its monthly normal rainfall.

5:05pm - Hamish Kirke has shared images with Newshub showing a large group of stranded people waiting to be evacuated from Timaru Airport.

"Many small aircraft operators are busy ferrying stranded people to Christchurch. Unfortunately, there are too many people and not enough seats available," he says.

"It could be another two days before the road opens again and people are desperate to get to their flights back home."

Weather: Nearly 1000 people stranded in Franz Josef
Photo credit: Hamish Kirke / Supplied

4:40pm - The South Island remains an island of two road halves tonight, with both main highways on either side of the island split in two by river-borne floodwaters on the east side and significant slips and damage from torrential rain on the west.

SH6 through South Westland is closed north of Haast and south of Harihari, while SH1 remains closed at the Rangitata Bridge and also inland at the Arundel bridge over the same river (Route 72).

Floodwaters from the Rangitata River are slowly receding in South Canterbury, but not fast enough for the NZTA to repair the damaged areas of road.

The conditions and extent of damage on both roads will be reassessed as early as possible on Monday morning by roading managers, but prolonged closures are to be expected.

Weather: Nearly 1000 people stranded in Franz Josef
Photo credit: Newshub

4:10pm - Chorus has released an update on the faults in the South Island telecommunications network.

On the West Coast, the landslip has resulted in a number of power poles carrying Chorus fibre being displaced. The Fox Glacier area remains isolated.

On the East Coast, approximately 3600 homes and businesses may still be without broadband or phone.

3:55pm - The Government will provide funding to support South Canterbury farmers affected by the recent heavy rain and flooding, while the farming community is also rallying to help out.

Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor has declared a medium-scale adverse event for the district, which will see up to $50,000 in funding made available to support farming communities.

"Two weeks of solid rain has resulted in severe disruption, putting tremendous pressure on our farmers, and they need to know that the Government is there to support them," he said.

"The dreadful weather has affected milking and pick-ups, with damage to pasture, fencing, races, stock water and irrigation systems."

Ministry for Primary Industries field-staff, who have been providing advice and assistance on the ground, have yet to determine the full extent of the damage and loss.

3:45pm - The Canterbury town of Geraldine is struggling to cater for an influx of people trapped by flooding in the region.

Storm damage and rising river levels have blocked State Highway 1 at the Rangitata Bridge and the alternative inland route, the bridge at Arundel.

Both are expected to remain closed well into Monday at least.

Geraldine Ward councillor, Gavin Oliver, says flood damage has even taken out the internet so there is no Wifi or Eftpos working.

Oliver says the local supermarket is also swamped and running out of stock. 

3:35pm - The latest flood photos from the south side of Rangitata show roads, houses and railway lines submerged by the storm.

Weather: Nearly 1000 people stranded in Franz Josef
Photo credit: Newshub

3:20pm - Civil Defence Minister Peeni Henare is heading to the West Coast to support recovery efforts.

The region has been struck by a weekend of severe and chaotic weather, and he will be speaking to the media shortly after 4pm on Sunday to provide an update on the latest damage.

Henare will then fly to the West Coast to meet with locals and assess what additional Government support is needed.

3pm - Transport says nine transmission towers crossing the Rangitata River have been damaged by the flooding.

One of the towers has been swept away by the flood waters, two are on the ground and a further six are standing but have varying degrees of damage.

"There has been no loss of power to communities as a result of the damage, with Christchurch and the upper South Island currently being supplied by other transmission circuits," a spokesperson says.

"Transpower's primary objective today is to ensure the areas around the towers and line is safe, so that further assessment can take place and we can begin to plan the repairs. The line is not live."

2:50pm - Fresh photos and video show the extent of the damage as downpours, and thunderstorms rip across the North Island.

The heavy rained caused the new seal on State Highway 58 to lift.
The heavy rained caused the new seal on State Highway 58 to lift. Photo credit: Facebook/Wellington Live

2:45pm - The inner North Island is under threat from tornadoes on Sunday as a "swarm of thunderstorms" moves up the country.

Currently, the upper South Island and lower North Island are under the push of the cold front moving north, with heavy rain and thunderstorm activity north-west of Taranaki.

MetService has issued a severe thunderstorm warning for around Taranaki, south Waikato and Taupo.

"There is a risk that some of these thunderstorms may be SEVERE with downpours of 25-40mm/h, large hail of more than 20mm in diameter and small tornadoes possible," it says.

2:30pm - MetService has issued a severe thunderstorm warning for around Taranaki, south Waikato and Taupo.

2pm - MetService warns the atmosphere over New Zealand remains unstable for much of today, with severe warnings and watches in force for heavy rain and thunderstorms over many areas of the country.