Student’s body found in cave after New Zealand hit by floods

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New Zealand police said they have found the body of a high school student in a cave after a school group got into trouble when floodwaters hit.

A group of 15 students and two adults had set out on Tuesday morning on a trip to the Abbey Caves in Whangarei, north of Auckland, as part of an outdoor education class, authorities said. The others made it out safely.

The death has raised questions about why school officials chose to go ahead with the trip even after forecasters had warned that heavy rain was approaching.

The district council website says the cave system features dramatic limestone outcrops, sink holes and three significant caves.

New Zealand Flooding
Cars move through a flooded road near Waimate, north of Auckland (Peter de Graaf/Northern Advocate via AP)

Mr Hill said the body was recovered late on Tuesday.

Whangarei Boys’ High School (WBHS) principal Karen Gilbert-Smith wrote on Facebook that the event was “hugely upsetting” for all those involved.

“In time we will seek to understand how this situation occurred, but for now I ask that we stay united as a WBHS community and provide support where required,” Ms Gilbert-Smith said.

Further south, the heavy rainfall and flooding on Tuesday prompted authorities in Auckland to declare a state of emergency. The declaration remained in place on Wednesday morning as the weather eased.

Fire and emergency crews said they responded to more than 200 calls on Tuesday, most of them in Auckland.

New Zealand Flooding
Authorities in Auckland have declared a state of emergency (Alex Robertson/New Zealand Herald via AP)

Some train and bus services were cancelled, and authorities urged people to avoid unnecessary travel.

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.

On Tuesday he said he had yet to find out all the details on what had happened to the student.

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

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