new Zealand flood
In this photo released by Chris Allen, a car is abandoned in flooded waters in Ashburton Forks near Christchurch, New Zealand, Sunday May 30, 2021. Several hundred people in New Zealand were evacuated from their homes while others recounted dramatic helicopter rescues as heavy rain caused widespread flooding in the Canterbury region. Image Credit: AP

Wellington: New Zealand's military was deployed to evacuate hundreds of residents from flood-hit areas of the South Island Monday as heavy rains washed away bridges and cut roads.

Rivers burst their banks as a weather system dumped 400 mm (15.5 inches) of rain in two days, an amount meteorologists said exceeded the entire rainfall so far this year in some areas.

Authorities issued a rare "red" weather warning and declared a state of emergency in the Canterbury region, one of the South Pacific nation's farming hubs.

new Zealand floods
This handout photo taken on May 30, 2021 and received on May 31 from the New Zealand Defence Force shows an army soldier wading through floodwaters helping evacuate residents and pets near the Canterbury town of Ashburton as authorities declared a state of emergency after the region was pounded by heavy rain. Image Credit: AFP

The New Zealand Defence Force said one of its helicopters rescued three people at Ashburton, near Christchurch, plucking one man from a tree and an elderly couple from the roof of a car.

The defence force said soldiers, trucks and an ambulance were helping with the evacuation effort.

Ashburton mayor Neil Brown said the entire town of 35,000 had been cut off.

"We have four bridges gone and a lot of damage to roads where the seal's just been lifted off, we've got 17 roads that are shut... there's a lot of damage," he told reporters.

Local media reported about 300 homes had been evacuated, with civil defence authorities establishing shelters in schools and sports centres.

Forecasters said the weather was expected to ease overnight.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is scheduled to visit the disaster zone on Tuesday.