Huge storm hits New Zealand

By David Barber

Wellington (dpa) – A storm lashed New Zealand Saturday, cutting power to thousands of homes and bringing down the roof of a sports stadium in the south of the country.

      Police warned the 52,000 residents of Invercargill on the South Island to stay indoors after 10 centimetres of snow closed roads, and the roof of the indoor arena collapsed under the weight of the snow. 

      Parts of the North Island were blasted by gale force winds and torrential rains, with at least 19,000 homes without electricity Saturday after falling trees brought down power lines and lightning strikes damaged transformers.

      Power companies said more than 75,000 consumers had lost power at some point after the storm hit late Friday, including 30,000 in New Zealand’s largest city, Auckland.

     The meteorological service warned people to keep clear of beaches on the North Island’s west coast where it forecast a 6-metre swell.

      Forecasters said heavy rains would lash the southern part of the North Island until at least mid-day Sunday, with a possibility of severe gales continuing throughout the day.