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Last Updated: Monday, 19 July, 2004, 07:46 GMT 08:46 UK
NZ hit by floods and earthquakes
Two people have been killed and around 1,500 evacuated from their homes in New Zealand after floods and dozens of small earthquakes hit the country.

Civil defence authorities have declared a state of emergency in the Bay of Plenty region on the north-east coast of the North Island.

Officials say the emergency could remain in place for some days.

Bad weather has also hit Australia, where winter storms brought heavy snowfall to the east coast.

In New Zealand, the towns of Whakatane, Opotiki and Edgecumbe were worst affected by the rainfall, where 250mm fell in 48 hours.

This area still looks like a large swimming pool
Diane Turner
Whakatane District Council spokeswoman
One woman was killed when a huge mudslide hit her home near Whakatane, and another died after a large tree fell on her car near the town of Tauranga.

"There are a large number [of people] who won't be going home for a while," said Whakatane District Council spokeswoman Diane Turner.

"This area still looks like a large swimming pool," she said.

Farmers are desperately trying to herd their cattle onto higher ground.

Prime Minister Helen Clark and Civil Defence Minister George Hawkins are to visit the Bay of Plenty on Monday.

In the Australian states of Victoria and New South Wales, an intense winter storm has whipped up gales and huge waves and left a thick blanket of snow.

"We seldom have snow to this extent and depth," an emergency services spokeswoman told reporters.

New Zealand hit by summer storms
17 Feb 04  |  Asia-Pacific
Country profile: New Zealand
05 Nov 03  |  Country profiles

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