Death toll from NZ cyclone rises as clean-up continues

STORY: The cyclone hit New Zealand on Sunday (February 12) on the uppermost region of the North Island, before tracking down the east coast, causing widespread devastation.

One kiwi fruit farmer feared he had lost his whole crop while his property was inundated with mud and silt from the floodwater.

New Zealand's Te Karaka resident Tahurangi Ruru was devastated as she walked into her home covered in mud and silt, and couldn't hold back tears as she went through household items covered in a heavy coating of mud.

Clean up from the cyclone, which cut off towns, washed away farms, bridges and livestock and inundated homes, stranding people on rooftops, continued along with efforts to locate thousands still missing.

Almost 5,000 people as of Friday (February 17) night were registered with police as being out of touch with friends or family since the cyclone hit, authorities said on Saturday, while 885 people had registered as safe.

There were grave fears for a small number, around 10, of those still missing.