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Emergency declared, student missing in New Zealand floods


WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — Authorities in Auckland declared a state of emergency Tuesday as flooding again hit New Zealand's largest city.

Further north in the city of Whangārei, a high school student was missing after a school group that was exploring caves got into trouble when floodwaters hit.

Fire and emergency crews said they had responded to more than 200 calls, most of them in Auckland. Many were for floodwaters entering buildings, but they had also responded to landslides, falling trees and trapped cars.

Severe weather has plagued the North Island this year. In January, four people were killed when floodwaters hit Auckland. In February, 11 people died when Cyclone Gabrielle hit.

Prime Minister Chris Hipkins said it was a difficult time for the region.

“We will get through this. We will support Auckland through it,” he told reporters. “We know that it's tough coming on top of everything else that they've been dealing with, but right now my request to people is just to keep yourself safe.”

Authorities said heavy rain was expected to continue off and on through until midnight, although they hoped the most severe downpours may have already passed. Some train and bus services were canceled, and authorities urged people to avoid unnecessary travel.

Police said a group of students had been doing an exercise at the Abbey Caves in Whangārei when they got into trouble. Search and rescue crews were trying to find the missing student, police said, while the other students had made it out safely.

Local media reported the missing boy had been swept away by floodwaters.

Hipkins said he was still seeking more information on what had happened to the student.

“I do want to express my deep concern there and my absolute support for the school community," Hipkins said.