Heavy snowfalls blanketed large parts of the city of Christchurch, New Zealand, this morning after the country was hit by a rare weather front from the Antarctic
Flights have been grounded, roads closed and power cuts have plunged vast areas of New Zealand into darkness following the country's heaviest snowfall in decades.
Snow and gale force winds have brought the country to a standstill during what forecasters are describing as a once-in-a-lifetime event.
Blizzards lashed the South Island before moving onto the more densely populated North Island, with the cold snap predicted to continue until Wednesday.
The country's official weather station MetService recorded temperatures as low as minus four degrees Celsius (25 degrees Fahrenheit) in the resort of Queenstown.
Residents in the hillside suburbs of the capital city of Wellington were told they faced being snowed in after they were hit with the heaviest blanketing in at least 30 years.
Civil defence chief Rian Van Schalkwyk warned: 'People should prepare for the worst, which means making sure they're reading in the event that they cannot leave home and may be without electricity and other amenities.'
Mail delivery in many towns was disrupted, and many schools, libraries and swimming pools were closed.
Hundreds of passengers in Christchurch, Queenstown and Dunedin were stranded after flights were grounded and major highways became impassable on both islands.
One flight which did begin its journey from Palmerston North to Wellington was struck by lightning.
None of the 16 people on board were injured and the Air New Zealand plane landed without incident.
Four-wheel drive emergency vehicles and a snow plough were scrambled after more than 100 people were trapped in their cars on a road over the Rimutaka Hills, north of Wellington.