Inflatable rescue boats have been used to help evacuate residents from flooded homes in parts of Tairāwhiti/Gisborne, where a state of emergency has been declared for the entire district.
Some areas have received more than 200 millimetres of rain in 24 hours, and the heavy rain forced some residents to leave their homes amid worsening flooding and rising river levels.
By 8.30pm the heavy rain in Gisborne and Hawke’s Bay had eased, and MetService had lifted its rain warnings. Further light rain was forecast for Friday.
But Tairāwhiti Civil Defence remained on standby.
* Weather: Wild winds, heavy rain sweep the North Island, causing fallen trees and state highway closure
* Heavy rain hitting eastern North Island expected to stick around
* Tornadoes and severe thunderstorms possible in Northland, heavy rain for other parts of Aotearoa
Its group controller Dave Wilson said anyone who felt they needed to be moved during the night should contact them. “We’re here. We’ll be here 24/7.”
He said people could call 0800 653 800 and there would be Civil Defence staff monitoring the situation throughout the night.
The council had issued a flood warning shortly before 5pm on Thursday for the Taruheru River – telling residents to get ready to leave as the tide rose.
Surface flooding around the district had closed several roads, and some people at Pouawa and Loisels had left their homes.
The council was forced to open the scours when the systems became overloaded.
Wilson warned locals to “treat all surface water as contaminated.”
In one of the worst affected areas, Sponge Bay, some residents left their homes as floodwaters rose, while contractors were sandbagging the area. Portaloos were delivered to Sponge Bay, and the power was shut off.
Parts of Kaiti and Fergusson Drive were also underwater, with sandbagging needed in low-lying areas.
There were slips on East Cape Rd and also Makorori Hill, but both still had a single lane open for traffic. Anaura Bay was completely cut off.
A number of private properties in other areas of the district reported sewage overflowing as wastewater backed up.
Welfare centres were set up at the Wainui School Hall, the Salvation Army on Gladstone Rd, and the House of Breakthrough church, with Te Poho o Rawiri Marae on standby.
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Tommy Dalton, of The Boardroom surf shop in Wainui, drove his van towards Sponge Bay earlier on Thursday.
“The roads are all flooded. A four-wheel-drive truck came through but [the water] was up around the doors. I wouldn’t drive my van through,” Dalton said.
“The council are out there trying to clear drains – it’s definitely a worry. If it keeps raining overnight we’re going to see some pretty big problems there for sure.”
Three large gum trees toppled on John Fraser’s MacLaurin Rd property, one of which “completely squashed” his shed, and a rare Jaguar Mark VII special sheltered inside it.
“It’s a massive tree, about 35 or 40 metres long. One went over and uprooted the other two, and then they toppled about five hours later. They brought some macrocarpas down with them.”
Fraser said his shed had been destroyed by one falling tree, as had the Jaguar.
“I don’t think insurance will be paying out for that. We have house and contents insurance, but I don’t think the car will be a part of that.”
He said there was minor flooding on his driveway, and described the trees falling over as a “chain reaction”.
Surfers having fun in Heath Johnston Park, Tamarau (near Sponge Bay), just out of Gisborne. A local resident says the stream is normally small enough to jump over.
Local councillor Shannon Dowsing said about 80 per cent of his section was underwater. He had just returned from a council meeting and said there was extensive surface flooding on the roads, including the state highway.
Despite the amount of water on his section, he was not too concerned about it flooding.
“My house was built on piles, knowing there was the potential for this.”
He had lived on the property for about four years and the rain was the heaviest he had seen.
His biggest concern was the overflow of wastewater into nearby rivers and streams. The council has done a lot of work to keep wastewater out of the network, but the rain has been so heavy, that the system has not been able to cope.
MetService has issued heavy rain and strong wind warnings and watches for Wednesday and Thursday.