December 10, 2023

Looting continues in cyclone-hit areas with 35 arrested, number of unaccounted for people down to 152

Related video: Police increasingly concerned about 400 people who are yet to be contacted

A further 35 people have been arrested in the Eastern District as criminal activity continues following Cyclone Gabrielle. 

Looting has been a major issue in the wake of the cyclone, particularly in the hard-hit Hawke’s Bay region. Justice Minister Kiri Allan earlier this week called on thieves to “get your act together” and “cut it out”. 

In an update on Thursday, police said in the 24 hours to 7pm on Wednesday they had conducted 507 prevention activities, including reassurance patrols and proactive engagements with storm-hit communities.

In the same period, they had received 597 calls, including six reports of burglaries, 11 unlawful takings and 38 family harm incidents.

Police said 35 people have been arrested – 24 in Hawke’s Bay and 11 in Tairāwhiti – for a variety of offences, including car conversion, serious assaults, burglary and disorder. 

Police also confirmed the number of uncontactable people as of 9am on Thursday was 152.

An additional 145 police staff have been deployed to the Eastern District while the Eagle helicopter remains in the area. 

This comes after police said they’re growing increasingly concerned about those who are yet to be contacted.

“Please take it from me, we’re always going to have serious concerns for people until we locate them. That’s just normal. As police officers we have concerns for people until we locate them,” Eastern District Commander Superintendent Jeanette Park said on Wednesday. 

“I can’t stand here today and say I’m not worried about more fatalities.”

Park also shut down social media speculation the total number of deaths following the cyclone is higher than what is being publicly reported. 

A total of 11 people have died due to the cyclone. This number is made up of eight people in Hawke’s Bay, one in Gisborne and two volunteer firefighters in Auckland.

But on social media, some people in Facebook community groups and locals posting to their personal profiles claimed morgues were full in Hawke’s Bay and speculated that police weren’t detailing the full extent of deaths. 

Supt Park left no room for speculation on Wednesday, “categorically” confirming to Newshub there are no further deaths to report other than the nine already confirmed in her region.

“We have not found anyone else that has lost their life as we are going through our searching,” Supt Park said. 

“I have no information to suggest that we are looking for bodies. We are going through the uncontactable list.”

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