- New Zealand police announced on Wednesday that they had found the body of a high school student in a cave system after a school group ran into difficulties due to flood waters.
- The student’s death has raised questions as to why school officials continued the trip after forecasters warned that heavy rain was approaching.
- Heavy rains and flooding on Tuesday prompted Auckland authorities to declare a state of emergency. The statement remained in effect Wednesday morning as the weather improved.
New Zealand police said they found the body of a high school student in a cave after a school group got into trouble due to flood waters.
A group of 15 students and two adults had set off on a field trip to the Abbey Caves in Whangārei on Tuesday morning as part of an outdoor education course, authorities said. The others got out safe and sound.
The death has raised questions as to why school officials chose to go ahead with the trip even after forecasters warned that heavy rain was approaching.
The district council website warns people to “check the weather forecast as the caves can be prone to flash flooding”. The site claims that the cave system features dramatic limestone outcrops, sinkholes, and three significant caves.
“We recognize that this event has been very painful for the school and the community at large, and that there are a number of questions the public will have,” Police Superintendent Tony Hill said in a statement. “At the moment, the focus of the police is to support those affected.”
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Hill said the body was recovered late Tuesday evening.
Whangārei Boys’ High School principal Karen Gilbert-Smith wrote on Facebook that the event was “extremely shocking” to all involved.
“We will seek to understand how this situation came about over time, but for now, I ask that we remain united as a WBHS community and provide support where required,” the principal wrote.
Further south, heavy rain and flooding on Tuesday prompted authorities in Auckland to declare a state of emergency. The statement remained in effect Wednesday morning as the weather improved.
Fire and emergency crews said they responded to more than 200 calls on Tuesday, most of them in Auckland. Many were from floodwaters entering buildings, but they had also responded to landslides, fallen trees and trapped cars. Some train and bus services have been canceled and authorities have urged people to avoid unnecessary travel.
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Bad weather has plagued the North Island this year. In January, four people died 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.
He said Tuesday he had yet to find out all the details about what happened to the student.
“I want to express my deep concern and absolute support to the school community,” Hipkins said