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Killer storm sweeps the country

3 February 1868

Headline from Wellington Independent, 11 February 1868
Headline from Wellington Independent, 11 February 1868

An ex-tropical cyclone swept south across the country from Saturday 1st. By the time it moved away on Tuesday 4th, more than 40 people had died.

Nine people died 10 km south-west of Ōamaru when a flash flood in the Waiareka Stream swept away their houses. Five members of a farming family drowned near Timaru. The wild seas whipped up by the storm claimed 15 lives in all, including nine men drowned when the Fortune was wrecked 15 km south of the entrance to Hokianga Harbour. Four people died when the Star of Tasmania went ashore at Ōamaru, including two children who drowned in berths where they had been placed for safety.

There was also widespread damage to property, with crops washed away and thousands of livestock lost. A contemporary estimate costed the damage at between £500,000 and £1 million ($60–120 million in today's values). A memorial to the five Totara Station workers who died in the Waiareka Stream flood was erected in the Ōamaru cemetery. The tragic events inspired Michelanne Foster’s 2008 play, The Great Storm of 1868.

How to cite this page

Killer storm sweeps the country, URL:, (Manatū Taonga — Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated