Alert in South Island as 'worst storm' hits NZ

Weather warning more rain certain File

An approaching cyclone prompted New Zealand to declare regional states of emergency, evacuate coastal areas and close airports and schools on Thursday.

Two people were hospitalised in Hawke's Bay after a tree hit their vehicle.

A further 800 households in the East Coast and almost 600 in Bay of Plenty, Wairarapa and Whanganui are also with electricity.

The storm was expected to move south overnight and reach the capital, Wellington, early on Friday, causing more problems along the way but also losing some of its punch.

Kiwifruit harvesting had been halted in areas around the country following ex-Cyclone Debbie last week and before Cyclone Cook.

Heavy rain and severe gales have begun blasting the coast between Tauranga and Whakatane, with the storm making landfall after 6pm on Thursday evening.

MetService predicted winds from the storm could gust to 150 kilometers (93 miles) per hour and waves rise to over 5 meters (16 feet).

It was initially expected to hit Auckland, but passed the country's biggest city to the east. There were reports of roofs ripped off and windows smashed, and police said many roads were closed, disrupting traffic as people headed away for the Easter holiday weekend.

With torrential rain and high winds expected, police advised those in the path of Cyclone Cook to keep trips to a minimum, if not ordered to evacuate.

Ministry deputy secretary Katrina Casey says the closures affect all 57 schools and about 80 ECEs in the Eastern Bay of Plenty, as well as schools on Great Barrier Island, Waiheke, Franklin area, Thames and Coromandel.

National airline Air New Zealand warned of "significant disruption" from the weather with many flights likely to be delayed or cancelled and the New Zealand Transport Agency said it was considering closing the Auckland Harbour Bridge, a major thoroughfare in the country's largest city.

More than 10,000 homes without power in Hawke's Bay and 1400 across Gisborne, Wairarapa, Whanganui and Bay of Plenty.

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