Family spends long night in car after Wairoa floods leave them stranded
Extreme flooding in Wairoa left two adults and two children stranded in their car for 18 hours – with just a bottle of water to share.
Ariana Baty, 19, faced a cold and hungry night with boyfriend Kayden Burke, 20, and her younger siblings Max, 11, and Harlyn, 10, after their Ford Mondeo got stuck between two "lakes" of floodwater.
Baty was driving back to Wairoa on Tiniroto Rd after visiting her grandparents at a farm 40 minutes north in Ruakituri.
Worried about the rain, and having to get back to her hometown of Palmerston North for work on Tuesday, they set out at 11am.
"It was raining all night and all morning, we thought we better get on the road in case we get stuck out here," Baty said.
The signs of flooding were everywhere: they saw four slips, piles of sticks and trees littering the road, and a number of "huge puddles" of water.
As they drove through one puddle, the car started sliding and Baty realised they wouldn't be able to get back through it.
As they drove on they realised they were trapped.
"In front of us was a huge puddle, or lake I should say, it probably covered about 200 metres of the road."
The river had swelled to engulf the whole bridge ahead.
The couple and children sat and watched as the road reflectors, one by one, became covered in water.
"Lucky we were on quite high ground so it wasn't too bad," Baty said.
At about 4pm, realising they weren't going to be able to get through, they phoned for help.
Ariana's uncle Shane Baty grabbed her grandad, and decided to bring kayaks through to rescue the family.
"My papa went and brought the kayaks back, but the police were in Frasertown and they were saying no one could go across, it was too dangerous, so they got sent home."
A little while later, Civil Defence phoned to tell them a helicopter might come and get them. But strong winds meant that, too, would be too dangerous.
With only a bottle of water and no food between them, they settled in for a cold and hungry night.
To pass the time the boys played eye-spy as well as playing games on a cell phone
But nothing could distract them from their hungry tummies – they had been looking forward to a pie from the local Oslers Bakery, Baty said.
"The kids were starving. You got past it at about 9pm at night, all you could do was sleep to forget about it."
They took turns stretching out and sleeping, until at 5am police Police senior constable Tony Maultsaid knocked on their window and said it was safe to pass.
The water had almost completely drained.
The first thing they did was get food.
"We went to the Z [service station] and got some pies and some lasagnas and sausage rolls and put more petrol in the car and got home.
"Papa was on the front step waiting for me and as soon as we walked in everyone got up and were hugging each other," Baty said.
"I think everyone was thinking worst case scenario."
After sending pictures of the floods to her workmates at the Coffee Club in Palmerston North, she was let off the hook from work.
The siblings' grandmother Mary Baty was relieved to have them home safe.
"My husband went out at 5am this morning and he was crossing that river no matter what, but there they were," she said.
"It was the happiest thing we'd seen."