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‘Things are really grim’: Evacuations, slips, after ‘extreme rain event’ hits Canterbury

Residents in Le Bons Bay on Banks Peninsula are being evacuated as heavy rain continues to batter the region.

A Fire and Emergency New Zealand spokeswoman said just after 8.30pm on Wednesday two fire appliances were sent to Le Bons Bay after reports of slips, but only one made it through.

The spokeswoman said “a few” people had been evacuated, but did not yet have an exact number.

Fenz had left the scene, and there were reports the water was receding, she said.

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A Le Bons Bay Rd resident, who lives closer to the Akaroa side, said her property hadn’t been affected by the flooding but “things are really grim” down the hill closer to the bay.

She said a creek that runs down the valley and into Le Bons Bay had burst its bank and the torrent of water was washing rocks and other debris down the road and threatening properties, including her son and daughter-in-law’s, who lived in the valley.

Jett Coutts, 13, kayaks along Eastern Tce in Beckenham, Christchurch.

LEE KENNY/Stuff

Jett Coutts, 13, kayaks along Eastern Tce in Beckenham, Christchurch.

Robin Burleigh, who has lived in Le Bons Bay for 35 years, said it was only the third time he could remember that much rain in the area.

“It’s not very nice at the moment,” he said.

Burleigh said he had friends down on the flat who were totally surrounded by water and were shifting belongings upstairs.

Another Le Bons Bay resident, who did not want to be named, said the water had flooded their garage and was almost knee-deep.

“There’s a lot of flooding going on, there’s a lot of garages and probably some baches that have got water in them,” the resident said.

Meanwhile, roads across Canterbury were closed due to flooding for what the city council said could be the biggest rain event “for several decades”, with the region forecast to receive two months worth of rain in a single day.

Avonside Dr, between Linwood Ave and Stanmore Rd in Linwood, and Goughs Rd and Long Bay Rd on Banks Peninsula were closed just after 5.30pm on Wednesday because of flooding, the Christchurch City Council said in a statement.

Le Bons Bay Rd on Banks Peninsula from the school, Newport St from Emlyn Pl to Wainoni Rd in Avondale and Avonside Dr between Emlyn Pl and Wainoni Rd were also closed, with further closures added shortly after 8pm at River Rd from Medway St to Banks Ave, Fitzgerald Ave from Kilmore St to Cambridge Tce, Avonside Dr from Woodham Rd to Retreat Rd and Edgeware Rd from Hills Rd to Geraldine St.

In Beckenham, the Heathcote River burst its banks near to the junction of Centaurus Rd and Bowenvale Ave.

Resident Scott Coutts said it was the first time the area had flooded since extensive remedial work was carried out in 2018.

The water was knee-deep along Eastern Tce. For Jett Coutts, 13, it was too good an opportunity to miss so he headed out in his kayak.

“The roads turned into another river, so I thought I might paddle along it,” he said.

“It’s actually surprisingly easy and fun.”

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Peter Timbs Meats was forced to shut about 1pm after staff could not stop flood water entering the shop.

Surface flooding at Victoria Square after heavy rain on Wednesday.

Amanda Cropp/Stuff

Surface flooding at Victoria Square after heavy rain on Wednesday.

David Timbs, manager of the Edgeware Rd butchers, said water levels outside the shop were “knee-high” after the drains could not cope with the downpour.

“The rain has been persistent all day and due to the fact the drains have not been fixed by Christchurch City Council we have flooded yet again,” he said.

“We have had a job number for the council for the last four years and still no action.”

The same thing had happened “three or four times a year”, for the past 10 years, he said.

Peter Timbs Meats in St Albans had to close after flood water entered the shop.

ALDEN WILLIAMS/Stuff

Peter Timbs Meats in St Albans had to close after flood water entered the shop.

The 53 staff had been sent home, with both the shop and the factory having to close as they could not get deliveries in or out, he said.

Timbs hoped the shop would reopen on Thursday.

Shop manager David Timbs hopes the shop will reopen on Thursday morning.

ALDEN WILLIAMS/Stuff

Shop manager David Timbs hopes the shop will reopen on Thursday morning.

The council also issued an announcement for those scheduled for kerbside rubbish collection on Thursday.

Those streets which were not “heavily affected” by flooding were being asked to put their bins out on Thursday before 6am rather than overnight, if possible, to avoid bins being washed away.

Christchurch City Council head of Three Waters Helen Beaumont initially said the “extreme rain event” was shaping up to be the biggest to hit Christchurch since the Wahine storm in 1968, but her statement was later amended to say it could be the biggest rain event “for several decades”.

“The most intense rain is due to hit Christchurch and Banks Peninsula between 8 and 11pm [on Wednesday]. Fortunately, that coincides with low tide, but we are still expecting there to be widespread flooding. If you live in a low-lying area, we advise you to start preparing your property now for potential flooding.”

The water level in the Avon River is high near the Margaret Mahy Playground in central Christchurch.

Dominic Harris/Stuff

The water level in the Avon River is high near the Margaret Mahy Playground in central Christchurch.

Civil Defence teams were on stand-by in case any homes had to be evacuated.

MetService meteorologist Angus Hines said while Wednesday’s rainfall was significant, forecasters were not expecting it to surpass the mammoth rainfall and widespread flooding that hit Canterbury in May as it was not expected to be as prolonged or intense.

That event triggered a rare red warning and a state of local emergency for the entire region.

“I don’t believe this will even be the biggest event of the year, but that’s not to say this is going to be insignificant because there is a serious amount of rain coming down.”

During the May flooding, some inland areas recorded their largest rainfalls ever, including Mt Somers with 526mm in just 48 hours.

As of about 3pm on Wednesday, the highest amount of rainfall had been recorded near Culverden in North Canterbury, where 70mm had fallen, Hines said.

Christchurch Airport had recorded about 33mm, Rangiora 59mm, Le Bons Bay on Banks Peninsula 24mm, Lyttelton 19.2mm, and Akaroa 14.6mm.

The rain was expected to be lighter overnight and into Thursday morning, before picking up again on Friday – though not as much as on Wednesday, Hines said.

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Cantabrians should still be prepared for the possibility of slips, flooding and “tricky” driving conditions, he said.

Beaumont said the Christchurch council had prepared pumps for potential surface flooding on Maces Rd in Bromley, the Flockton area, and Ebbtide St in Southshore.

Flooding along Avonside Drive, in Christchurch after heavy rain caused severe flooding earlier this year. (File photo)

CHRIS SKELTON/Stuff

Flooding along Avonside Drive, in Christchurch after heavy rain caused severe flooding earlier this year. (File photo)

The stormwater storage basins upstream of the Heathcote River, which were designed to ease the pressure on the rivers, would probably reach capacity overnight.

Water from the storage basins would likely need to be released into the Heathcote on Thursday morning, which would cause a rapid rise in the water levels, she said.

“People living along the Heathcote should expect some flooding across the roads and onto their properties, and that may increase when we release water into the river.”

People living near any of the city’s waterways should not park their cars overnight on streets that were vulnerable to flooding, and residents with blocked drains or gutters should clear them if possible, Beaumont said.

State Highway 1 in Domett, North Canterbury, is down to one lane near Darrochs Rd due to flooding.

NZTA/SUPPLIED

State Highway 1 in Domett, North Canterbury, is down to one lane near Darrochs Rd due to flooding.

Any residents with concerns about flooding should call the council on 03 941 8999, while anyone with concerns for their safety should call 111 immediately.

As of 1pm, surface flooding was affecting State Highway 1 between Blenheim and Waipara – a 251-kilometre stretch. The highway had been reduced to 60kmh temporarily near Claverly Rd in Hundalee,and was down to one lane near Darrochs Rd in Domett, a Waka Kotahi spokesperson said

The Waimakariri District Council had temporarily closed all fords in the district and Lees Valley Rd, which was damaged in the May storm.

Staff were inspecting road and stormwater infrastructure, and closing known flood areas ahead of time.

North of Christchurch there were reports of at least one house flooded in Leithfield Beach.

Flooding across State Highway 1 near Domett, North Canterbury.

STACY SQUIRES/Stuff

Flooding across State Highway 1 near Domett, North Canterbury.

A Fire and Emergency New Zealand (FENZ) spokesman said crews from Amberley were being sent to Kowai St after receiving reports of a stream bursting its banks and threatening to flood at least two nearby houses and a garage about 5.40pm.

The Hurunui District Council was also sending a team to assist, the spokesman said.

Kenny Moore, a resident of the coastal village, said although the rivers were not overly high, there was a lot of surface water in the area.

“In Penfold Sq, there is probably 6 to 8 inches (15-20 centimres) of water,” he said.

“I would say we are going to have a pretty interesting night.”

Hurunui District Council chief executive Hamish Dobbie said there had been a “small amount” of surface water at Leithfield Beach.

Flood gates were pre-emptively opened on Tuesday as they knew the rain was coming, Dobbie said.

MetService meteorologist Dan Corrigan earlier said the rain was coming from warm, moist air from the north wrapping around a low pressure system.

“The warm air holds more moisture … meaning more rain,” he said.

The average rainfall for December was 42mm.



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