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Polar blast continues to cause havoc in New Zealand

(Xinhua)

16:21, August 17, 2011

WELLINGTON, Aug. 17 (Xinhua) -- Freak winter weather continued to cause chaos in New Zealand Wednesday with freezing cold and historic snowfalls.

After a rare snow swept most of the country in the last three days, power cuts still plagued hundreds of homes in the lower North Island after the severe weather damaged lines.

Fierce weather in the South Island and lower North Island over the past couple of days put the high voltage national grid under stress as ice and snow collected on lines, combined with severe winds and lightning.

New records were met for electricity demand earlier this week as the extreme cold roared up the country, according to lines company Powerco.

Wellington came close to a blackout on Monday night, as three of the four main transmission lines into the city were shut by snow and ice on the wires. Lightning then hit the remaining line, causing power to flicker.

State Highway 2 north of the capital was still closed by snow.

In the South Island, roads were clowed in Central Otago roads were closed, as some mountain passes were unpassable.

Ferry sailings between the North and South islands were canceled as swells of more than 5 meters churned up the Cook Strait.

The harsh weather caused some problems in earthquake-battered Christchurch, where two people were reportedly injured after falling.

Meteorologists said the main event had passed, but the country was still being affected by the tail. Snow flurries are still hitting parts of Canterbury and the wettest and coldest parts were moving up the North Island's east coast. On Monday, the country's biggest city of Auckland saw its first snow in almost 80 years, and meterologists have described the polar blast as a once in a lifetime event for the South Pacific nation.

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