Body found in search for missing student in New Zealand cave system

Flooding and heavy rains in Auckland Tuesday prompted road closures and a local state of emergency declaration.

New Zealand police will resume their search at first light Wednesday for a high school student missing in a flooded cave system after a school trip during heavy rain on the country’s North Island.

Northland Police said they received reports at about 10:35 a.m. local time Tuesday that a group of high school students were in difficulty at the Abbey Caves in Whangārei, around 180 kilometers (112 miles) north of Auckland.

Of the 15 students and two adults in the group, all but one made it out of the cave safely, police said in a statement posted to Facebook.

An initial search failed to find the boy and officials suspended the search around 5 p.m. Tuesday when night fell.

The year 11 students from Whangārei Boys High School (WBHS) were caving as part of an outdoor education class when they “encountered a severe weather event,” the school said in a statement.

“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,” the statement added.

The school said it would open as normal on Wednesday to “maintain a sense of routine” for students and staff.

According to the Whangārei District Council’s website, the Abbey Caves are prone to flash flooding and visitors are warned to check the weather forecast before setting out.

Auckland declared a local state of emergency on Tuesday after a torrential downpour.

An orange alert for heavy rainfall, level 2 of 3, remains in effect for the city, the Great Barrier Island and Coromandel Peninsula until midnight local time.

The heaviest rainfall occurred on Tuesday between 12 p.m. and 1 p.m. local time with rates exceeding 30 millimeters (1.2 inches) per hour.

Auckland is forecast to have received 73.5 millimeters (2.9 inches) of rain by the end of Tuesday, more than half the 120 millimeters (4.7 inches) the city historically receives on average for the month of May.

This is the third significant weather event to hit Auckland since the start of the year.

In February, Cyclone Gabrielle lashed Auckland with relentless wind, rain and waves that killed at least eight people and prompted authorities to order a nationwide state of emergency. And the month before, the city and its surrounding areas were hit by record rainfall that sparked deadly floods.

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