Evacuation of nearly 200 trapped tourists underway at Milford Sound

DSLR picture of Milford Sound in New Zealand. The picture was taken from a boat.  The water is on the foreground and the mountains are in the background. The sky is clear blue without any cloud. A retro filter was applied to the picture.

The evacuation of nearly 200 tourists trapped at Milford Sound after torrential rain is underway.

According to New Zealand’s 1 News, the evacuation began at first light Wednesday morning, supported by local helicopter companies, after the tourists were unable to leave.

The only road leading to Milford Sound, one of New Zealand’s most visited tourist destinations, had been damaged during extreme weather conditions that saw a state of emergency declared for the Fiordland region.

Tourism company Real Journeys is reportedly managing the evacuation of the tourists, including a number of Australians, who were expected to be flown to Knobs Flat.

Buses will then transport them to the Fiordland Events Centre, where they will be met by Emergency Management Southland welfare staff, 1 News reported.

At the time of the emergency, weather conditions and road closures 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, Southland region emergency management controller Angus McKay said, as reported by DPA news agency.

A Civil Defence spokesperson told 9 News feedback from those stuck in Milford Sound was that they were warm, comfortable and feeling well informed about the decisions that were being made.

Rescue operations were also underway on Tuesday to evacuate a further 31 people stuck in a hut nearby, which was hit by a landslide.

McKay reportedly said the main priority was to get them out along with others who might be trapped on various tracks in the region.

Milford Road, locally known as State Highway 94, is expected to remain closed for at least another week as extreme weather washed parts of the road away.

In a statement, an Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) spokesperson told Travel Weekly New Zealand authorities have advised the Australian High Commission in Wellington that “a number of Australians” were evacuated after flooding near Milford Sound.

Further evacuations will occur when weather conditions allow.

“New Zealand authorities have confirmed that everyone affected is safe and has access to shelter, food and water,” the spokesperson said. “The High Commission continues to monitor developments and stands ready to provide consular assistance, if requested.”

Featured image: Milford Sound, New Zealand (iStock.com/Onfokus)

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