Flooding in Auckland, 12 AprilImage copyright Getty Images
Image caption Auckland escaped the worst of the storm, but still suffered some heavy rain

Heavy rain and strong winds are lashing parts of New Zealand as Cyclone Cook, called the worst storm in decades, sweeps across the North Island.

States of emergency have been declared in the Coromandel Peninsula and Bay of Plenty, with landslips, flash flooding and downed power lines closing roads.

Some coastal areas have been evacuated, and local media say 15,000 homes are without power.

But Auckland, New Zealand’s largest city, has been spared the worst.

Cyclone Cook killed one person when it swept through the Pacific islands of New Caledonia earlier this week.

In New Zealand, the storm made landfall in the Bay of Plenty at about 18:30 local time (06:30 GMT). It is then expected to move to the South Island early on Friday.

Forecasters have been warning of 5m (16ft) waves, storm surges and 150km/h (90mph) winds.

Power was knocked out to much of the coastal town of Whakatane, Radio NZ reported, with trees and power lines down across the region.

Residents in the low-lying parts of the Coromandel and the Tauranga area had been told to leave immediately, with civil defence shelters set up for those who had evacuated.

Lauren Hayes, of the NZ Red Cross, tweeted that a lot of families had arrived at the 110 beds centre in Whakatane, and people were arriving with “tales of near misses with uprooted trees and other debris”.

By about 21:00 local time (09:00 GMT), the full force of the storm had moved towards Hawkes Bay on the east of the North Island.

Warnings over the Bay of Plenty and Coromandel were lifted, with the storm expected to head southwards towards Wellington.

Another 9,000 people were without power in the eastern region of Hawke’s Bay, TV NZ reported.

The storm comes after severe floods caused by the remnants of Cyclone Debbie hit some parts of the country last week.

Image copyright TVNZ / Reuters
Image caption Roads were also flooded in Kaeo, north of Auckland

The storm has been classified as an extra-tropical cyclone. That means it has changed into a different weather system as it approached to New Zealand, but has not necessarily weakened or been downgraded, according to New Zealand’s MetService.

Image copyright NZ Defence Forces
Image caption The military helped with preparations

Schools and businesses across the island closed early, while residents in affected areas were urged to stock up on emergency supplies.

Flights across the country have either been delayed or cancelled, and national carrier Air New Zealand has suspended operations from Tauranga Airport in the North Island.

Image copyright EPA / Nasa
Image caption The cyclone swept through the South Pacific before approaching New Zealand (in outline)

The cyclone formed around Vanuatu on Sunday before moving towards New Caledonia, bringing heavy rain and winds and causing cuts to power and water supplies.

New Zealand weather officials said Cyclone Cook would be the worst to hit the country since 1968.

They have warned that it would bring a “phenomenal” amount of rain and wind, reported The New Zealand Herald newspaper, compared with Cyclone Debbie which was more spread out.

Cyclone Debbie hit Australia at the end of March, before its remnants moved towards New Zealand.

It soaked New Zealand cities like Wellington and Auckland. Authorities are now worried about how Cyclone Cook will impact land that is already saturated from heavy rains.

Image copyright @bowlshut
Image caption Despite disruption, some people’s positive attitude was not totally dampened by the storm

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Source: BBC