EventsManagementTourism

Fiordland tourists trapped in flood drama

Nearly 200 tourists have been trapped at Milford Sound this week following torrential rains and landslides.

The visitors were cut off after the only road leading to the Fiordland National Park tourism draw was damaged by the extreme weather on Monday.

About 70 others on the Te Anau side of the Homer Tunnel on State Highway 94 were evacuated by helicopter on Monday.

Weather conditions and the road closure meant it was best to keep the 195 tourists and about 200 hotel and lodge staff in Milford until they could be safely transported out, emergency management controller Angus McKay said on Tuesday.

The floods also forced the evacuation of 31 hikers trapped at the nearby Howden Hut which was struck by a landslide early on Tuesday. They had been walking a popular Fiordland hiking route when the landslide hit, causing some to sustain minor injuries.

A state of emergency for the Fiordland area was declared to allow rescuers to co-ordinated their response on how best to access the remote location and evacuate it safely.

New Zealand Transport Agency journey manager Peter Brown said: ”There is extensive damage from Lake Gunn to the Homer Tunnel which will delay us opening this road quickly and there is still a section we haven’t inspected due to bad weather preventing a flyover.”

The MetService has warned more rain is forecast for the region over the next couple of days, increasing the likelihood of further road closures, landslips and other issues.

Angus McKay said on Tuesday that while the tourists and staff were likely to remain trapped for the short term, “everyone is dry, fed and safe”.

 “They’ve got really good plans in place over there for dealing with these situations. They have plenty of accommodation and plenty of food,” he told local media.

Some were housed at Mitre Peak Lodge while others were staying on boats, he said, confirming the region had power because Milford Sound was run by a diesel generator.

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Kate Jackson

Kate Jackson is the editor of Accomnews. You can reach her at any time with questions or submissions: editorial@accomnews.co.nz

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