Hundreds flee rising floodwaters in North Island gallery video

CHARLOTTE CURD/Stuff.co.nz

People in Waitotara return to the Taranaki town to assess the damage from the weekend's flooding.

A hundred people have been evacuated from Waitotara - likely the south Taranaki village's entire population - after flooding engulfed the remote town.

Waitotara is located about 30 kilometres north of Whanganui. It has sixty houses and sits on the Waitotara River, which flooded in the heavy rain over the weekend.

Residents were not able to return to their homes on Sunday, as flood waters were still high, Civil Defence said. Some residents were asked to evacuate, while others self-evacuated. Many went to the nearby town of Waverley.

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Shot from locations around Manuwatu: Fitzherbert Bridge, Moutoa Flood gates, Foxton Shannon Road Bridge, Opiki Bridge.

A state of emergency remains in place for Taranaki, Whanganui and Rangitikei.

More than  200 people were evacuated from areas near the Whanganui River, which reached record levels of 9.1 metres at Town Bridge at 3am on Sunday. Many more people had self-evacuated.

About 100 flood affected homes on the city's Anzac Parade could be inaccessible until Tuesday because of the high waters, the Ministry of Civil Defence said.

The Whangaehu River in flood.
Warwick Smith/ Fairfax NZ

The Whangaehu River in flood.

Assessments of properties along the Whanganui River had been delayed because water levels were not expected to start receding until early afternoon, despite improvements in the weather, CD director Sarah Stuart-Black said.

Slips had also come down on the aveneue and needed to be assessed before the road could reopen.

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Flooding of the Kowhai Park Dairy on Anzac Parade in Whanganui.
Tracey Grant

Flooding of the Kowhai Park Dairy on Anzac Parade in Whanganui.

The city's bridges were closed and would not reopen until structural assessments had been made. Areas of high risk were being cordoned off.

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Stuart-Black said power in the region was intermittent, but water was available and civil defence centres were open at Wanganui Girls' College and at St Johns.

Mayor Annette Main was cut off from her home, 45km upriver from the city, and said the floodwater had risen so high that it was nearly lapping at her doors.

Horizon's operations team was expected to breach the stopbank by Whanganui's Kowhai Park following high tide at 2pm to allow water in the area to flow back through to the sea.

A suspected break in the fibre optic cable has left Rangitikei with limited mobile and internet coverage. Grant said the break was believed to be in the cable between Marton and Whanganui. The Rangitikei District Council evacuated six people from the Turakina Beach village of Koitiata on Saturday night with help from rural fire crews and the army.

State Highway 3 between Whanganui and New Plymouth reopened on Sunday morning, but motorists were being advised against non-essential travel.

Waitotara the morning after.
Gerry Leibbrandt

Waitotara the morning after.

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The Whanganui River on Sunday morning.

The New Zealand Transport Agency's central regional performance manager Mark Owen said the road condition was "poor", with debris, slips, surface flooding and one-lane restrictions still operating in some places.

He urged those who did have to travel to allow extra time for their journey.

TRAPPED IN TARANAKI

TRACEY GRANT/Stuff.co.nz/Supplied

Whanganui has been badly hit by flooding and a state of emergency has been put in place.

Some residents in the South Taranaki town of Waitotara slept in their cars on Saturday night after being evacuated following rising flood waters.

Waitotara suffered much of the worst damage from the widespread flooding around Taranaki and the lower North Island.  Residents began returning to the village, in their gumboots, on Sunday morning and were waiting for the waters to recede, so they could get into their homes.

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Warwick Smith/ Fairfax NZ Warwick Smith/ Fairfax NZ Chris Warwick Smith/ Fairfax NZ Warwick Smith/ Fairfax NZ Tracey Grant/Fairfax Media Tracey Grant Tracey Grant Warwick Smith/ Fairfax NZ Tracey Grant/Fairfax Media Warwick Smith/ Fairfax NZ Warwick Smith/ Fairfax NZ Robert Charles/Fairfax NZ Robert Charles/Fairfax NZ Robert Charles/Fairfax NZ NATHAN FLETCHER KATHRYN KING/FAIRFAX NZ NATHAN FLETCHER GERRY LEIBBRANDT GERRY LEIBBRANDT JOHN SHEEHAN/SUPPLIED MIA KENNEDY/SUPPLIED MIKE WATKINS JANINE RANKIN/FAIRFAX NZ KRISTEN MABEY/SUPPLIED KRISTEN MABEY/SUPPLIED KRISTEN MABEY/SUPPLIED TONY DUFFY/SUPPLIED CHRISTOPHER CARRAN/SUPPLIED Charlotte Curd/Fairfax NZ Carly Thomas / Supplied CHARLOTTE CURD/FAIRFAX NZ Charlotte Curd/Fairfax NZ Charlotte Curd/Fairfax NZ Charlotte Curd/Fairfax NZ

Manawatu River between Palmerston North & Ashhurst.

Manawatu River, Anzac Cliffs and Palmerston North.

Flood waters block the road on the way to Himatangi beach near Palmerston North.

On the way to Himatangi beach near Palmerston North.

Manawatu River.

Manawatu Gorge.

Outside the Red Lion Hotel Whanganui a footpath has slipped slipped into the Whanganui River.

The Kowhai Park Dairy on Anzac Parade in Whanganui.

Whanganui from Wairere Rd, showing the Waimarie paddle steamer.

Houses in Whangaehu on the Whangaehu River.

A slip forces the closure of Ikitara Rd in Wanganui East.

Whangaehu on the Whangaehu River.

The Whangaehu River.

Flooding at Waitotora.

A collapsed road in the Waitotora Valley.

Patea hydroelectric Dam in Taranaki.

The flooded Waitotara river

Dee Smith and Dave Hill clean up in Feilding.

Whanganui river flooding Taupo Quay.

Waitotara Valley flooded.

Waitotara Valley flooding.

The Manawatu River on Sunday morning.

The Pahiatua Track covered by a slip 100m long.

Motorists stop and survey the slip blocking the Pahiatua Track.

In Palmerston North, Escort Grove's flood waters are believed to be contaminated with sewage.

Flooding in Manawatu farmland, around 8.30 on Sunday morning.

Ballance Bridge going over the Manawatu River on Sunday morning.

Manawatu farmland on Sunday morning.

Overnight flooding in Palmerston North.

The Manawatu Gorge remains closed.

Heavy rain has caused the Waitara River rise and the town to flood.

Floodwaters washed out the road in Waituna West.

State Highway 3 south of Waitara has been affected by surface flooding.

Coming in from some mad fun on their kayaks in the Waitara river. From left Kayakers Peter Vanlith, Tony Gable, James Murphy and John Murphy

Waitara River floods comes up floods over Waitara Bridge.

Makere Street. Shyanne Donghi-Johnson, 3 and a half with her mother, Rebecca Johnson, make their way through the water on Makere St.

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A Waitotara local  Sid Wyatt takes the floods in his stride. Photo: Charlotte Curd.

James Takarangi spent Saturday night in his car.

He was evacuated from his home at 10.30pm and headed for Waverley, but the accommodation filled up quickly and with all of the beds taken he ended up in his car. He returned to Waitotara on Sunday morning to find the front of his house covered in mud.

Tracey Grant/Fairfax Media Tracey Grant/Fairfax Media Tracey Grant Tracey Grant BELINDA ARUNDEL BELINDA ARUNDEL BELINDA ARUNDEL BELINDA ARUNDEL BELINDA ARUNDEL

Outside the Red Lion Hotel Whanganui a footpath has slipped slipped into the Whanganui River.

A slip forces the closure of Ikitara Rd in Wanganui East.

Wanganui from Wairere Rd, showing the Waimarie paddle steamer.

The Kowhai Park Dairy on Anzac Parade in Whanganui.

Floodwaters have run over stopbanks in Whanganui.

Boats are the only way to get around Whanganui.

The Whanganui River's flood levels are the highest on record.

Whanganui town centre has turned into a river.

The Whanganui River has reached it highest level on record.

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It will take a couple of days to clean up and the whole town will pitch in, he said.

"That's what we do. You just get on with it."

Waitotara School acting principal Jane Corcoran said the school hall was flooded, as was the dental clinic, but she hadn't been able to get to the main school building. Corcoran, along with some parents, had entered the school in at lunchtime on Saturday and moved everything in off the ground. 

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Waitotara on Sunday morning as residents started coming back. Photo: Gerry Leibbrandt

Taranaki Civil Defence group controller David Lean said the Waitotara River had been higher than the record 2004 flood and they were still assessing area.  The Waitotara Bridge remained closed.  There were serious concerns about it, Civil Defence controller Sue Kelly said.

It was "creaking and groaning" as debris – including trees and an entire shed washed downstream – smashed into its supports on Saturday night.

Federated Farmers still had some concerns for people in Whangamomona, he said. Helicopter operator Alan Beck flew over the eastern Taranaki area on Sunday morning and said many roads in the area were cut off by slips and power lines were down.

State Highway 3 at Urenui has reopened to one lane, partially restoring access between Taranaki and Waikato. The Uruti Valley has been hit by slips and trees that have taken down power lines and it was not known when full supply will be restored. At Strathmore in eastern Taranaki, faultmen are working to reconnect about 136 properties.

READ MORE: 
* Consistency of Civil Defence reponse questioned
* A 3am water-logged wake up: Waitotara evacuated
* Palmerston North locals race to see swollen river despite warnings
State of Emergency in Whanganui
* Kapiti Coast mops up
List of roads closed to flooding, slips
* Weekend sports washed away by floods 
Waitara homes surrounded by water
Snow warnings for South Island

PHOTOS: Flooding spreads over lower North Island

SWOLLEN RIVER QUITE A SIGHT

In Manawatu, a late Saturday night surge at the southern end of the Manawatu River saw it spill over, prompting eight people to be evacuated.

There was some water contamination due to power loss to sewage pumps, Black said.

Palmerston North city had some slips and surface flooding. In Rangitikei, commercial and residential homes were flooded in Marton, and 25 people were taken into the civil defence centre overnight.

A Marton couple were forced to sleep on lounge chairs when their eight-bedroom motel was swamped by floodwaters.

Brian and Carol Hausman's Adobe Motel on Calico Line in Marton was flooded at the weekend, with water seeping through the walls and into rooms.

"I could just sit there and ball," Brian Hausman said. "You can't do anything about it."

The cleanup effort began on Sunday, with friends and family helping to strip rooms and empty the units of furniture and carpet to provide space for builders to fix the water-damaged walls.

There will be no vacancy in the motel for a couple of weeks because of the damage, and the Hausmans have cancelled their bookings until they are able to fit out the rooms.

"They're all covered, even the manager's flat," Brian Hausman said.

But, fortunately, they knew the water was coming and took some precautions.

"We took everything off the floor," he said.

"The water didn't come through the doors, it came through the walls."

In Koitiata, near Turakina, there was no cellphone coverage and landlines were working intermittently.

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The Manawatu River south of Palmerston North. Photo: Warwick Smith/Fairfax NZ

More rain was expected between 6pm and midnight in Horowhenua, and evacuations were made in both Levin and Foxton.

The situation in Horowhenua would be closely monitored as water and waste water may become an issue, Black said.

Crews were continuing to work on the Manawatu Gorge road, which was impeded by a number of smaller slips. It was expected to remain closed for a few days, but an update on progress would be made on Monday.

The Saddle Rd, one of the alternatives to the Gorge Rd, remained under stop-go control, while the Pahiatua Track was closed.

A pump had been deployed to remove water from the flooded area of State Highway 1 near Marton and it was hoped the road would reopen on Sunday night.

A cold blast was on its way and the NZTA would be monitoring the weather to ensure as many route options were available as possible in the event of snow-related closures, Owen said.

WHAT TO DO IF YOU ARE IN A FLOODED AREA

The Wanganui District Council advise residents to stay in their homes if possible. If there is an emergency phone 111, if it is less urgent phone Civil Defence at (06) 349 0001. 

The Kapiti Coast District has issued a series of public safety directives. 

- Take care on the roads in the district - there is surface flooding in many places in the district. Stay away from waterways - there is still a lot of water in river corridors.

- Residents in flood prone areas are advised to phone 111 if they are worried about their personal safety. Call your local council if you need assistance.

- Also touching base with your insurance company may be a good idea if you can

- Reminder to please stay away from waterways and flood waters - rivers and streams are still running high and may contain debris.

 - Stuff

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