Drone footage shows extent of flooding after West Coast overnight deluge video

jakobdezwart/Instragram

Hundreds were evacuated after floods swept through north of Franz Josef on the West Coast on Wednesday night.

Drone footage shot by an Australian tourist shows the extent of the flood that inundated the West Coast.

Flood waters have begun to recede after a river broke its banks near Franz Josef overnight, forcing 186 people to evacuate.

Sydney-based event photographer Jakob de Zwart​ was staying with his partner in a cottage about 300 metres from the centre of the township when the deluge started pummelling the roof during the early hours.

A state of emergency was declared after the Waiho River burst its banks north of Franz Josef.
JOANNE CARROLL/FAIRFAX NZ

A state of emergency was declared after the Waiho River burst its banks north of Franz Josef.

He said he was woken by the rain and wondered what was happening and whether they were safe.

READ ALSO:
Live: Weather havoc
Power outages as stormy weather hits Auckland
Riwaka homes flooded

 
JOANNE CARROLL/Stuff.co.nz

Canadian honeymooner Shawn Elford was amongst hundreds evacuated after floods swept through the West Coast town of Franz Josef, where contractors are working on protecting the town from a burst river.

"It sounded like a fire hose on the roof.

"My partner's from Gore and she said it rains like this all the time on the West Coast.

"But then the flash flood broke the river banks. When we got up we realised the town was in a state of emergency."

Flooding at the Haast Bar, north of Franz Josef, after the Waiho River burst its banks.
JOANNE CARROLL/FAIRFAX NZ

Flooding at the Haast Bar, north of Franz Josef, after the Waiho River burst its banks.

He shot the drone footage around midday on Thursday.

Ad Feedback

Cars are submerged, a hotel has a "river running through it", and a new water channel is running through an area 1km north of the town.

However, by 3pm West Coast Regional Council chief executive Chris Ingle said rain was clearing, allowing the area some sign of a reprieve. 

The Heartland Hotel, which is the Mueller wing of the Scenic Hotel, was "significantly" damaged by flood waters.
JOANNE CARROLL/FAIRFAX NZ

The Heartland Hotel, which is the Mueller wing of the Scenic Hotel, was "significantly" damaged by flood waters.

A "significant" problem with the town's water supply had been fixed, but residents were still being urged to conserve water, he said.

Crews were attempting to restart the pipeline, and the water to this area should be back on later tonight.

However, due to the water issues the Franz Josef Top 10 Holiday Park would not be accepting guests on Thursday night.

Hotel chefs Joseph Kenny Hoeflich, Thabo Rasimeli, Jack Moledi and Uzile Maqungo collecting their belongings after they ...
JOANNE CARROLL/FAIRFAX NZ

Hotel chefs Joseph Kenny Hoeflich, Thabo Rasimeli, Jack Moledi and Uzile Maqungo collecting their belongings after they were evacuated from Scenic's Heartland Hotel on Wednesday night.

The state of emergency would remain in place tonight, and would be reviewed in the morning, Ingle said. 

"What we need to do is wait for the river to go down this weekend. We're starting to see a clearer picture but it will be a few more days until we can provide a full report.

"Tomorrow will be the day for assessing the damage, cleaning up and thinking 'Where to from here'"

Civil defence evacuated 186 people after the Waiho River, near Franz Josef, broke its banks.
JANET RISTOW/SUPPLIED

Civil defence evacuated 186 people after the Waiho River, near Franz Josef, broke its banks.

Two accommodation houses, used by the Scenic Hotel, would remain evacuated tonight, but all other residents were back in their homes.

Contractors have started emergency rock work to repair the riverbank breach. An emergency operations centre has been set up. 

The Waiho breached its banks in heavy rain about 11.50pm on Wednesday. Civil Defence evacuated 186 people, cars were "tossed" around car parks and water swept through buildings. State Highway 6 closed for about two hours.

The Waiho River breached its banks overnight, flooding nearby properties.
NZTA

The Waiho River breached its banks overnight, flooding nearby properties.

A local state of emergency was declared at 2am.

Westland Civil Defence public information manager Andy Thompson said the Franz Josef town itself was largely unaffected, but engineers had established problems with the town's water supply were "significant and ongoing".

"We've issued an official boil water notice for the whole of Franz Josef," he said.

Sewerage oxidisation ponds, located on the side of the river and downstream from the Franz Josef township, were destroyed in the flood.

However, Thompson said their was no sewerage risk to the town itself.

The Heartland Hotel, known as the Mueller and owned by the Scenic Hotel, was significantly flooded.

"I've seen the [Mueller] and it is significant. It has got a river running through it, literally.

"There are cars submerged," Thompson said.

Red Cross personnel arrived in Franz Josef on Thursday morning with relief supplies for displaced people. The extent of damage to buildings and vehicles remained unclear. 

State Highway 6 reopened about 4am, but still had surface flooding. 

186 PEOPLE EVACUATED

First, water flooded through the Mueller, causing the evacuation of 70 people, 60 staff and 10 tourists. They were relocated to the unaffected Scenic Hotel Franz Josef.

At 1.15am, the water reached the Top 10 Holiday Park, where 100 tourists were evacuated.

Sixteen people were evacuated from the Westwood Lodge. 

By 4.35am, civil defence had evacuated 186 people, most of them tourists, Fire Service spokesman Brent Dunn said.

About 80 evacuated people were housed in welfare centres in Franz Josef. The rest drove north out of the flood zone.

Canadian honeymooner Shawn​ Elford arrived in Franz Josef about 9pm Wednesday.

"Then about 45 minutes later we got a notification saying we were on high alert for flooding just up the road, that we might be evacuated.

"About 1.15am the fire brigade came and the sirens were on. Everyone was escorted out," Elford said.

He stayed in Whataroa.

"We're making our way further south to continue our honeymoon."

FLOATING IPADS IN HOTEL ROOMS

Mueller hotel chefs Joseph Kenny Hoeflich, Thabo Rasimeli, Jack Moledi and Uzile Maqungo were among the 60 hotel staff evacuated from their accommodation on Wednesday night.

They collected their belongings at 1.30pm on Thursday.

Moledi said he was at work on Wednesday night at about 11pm when all staff were told they would need to evacuate their accommodation. 

The Mueller is one kilometre north of the main Scenic Hotel in Franz Josef. It houses 60 staff members and some tourist accommodation.

"We were just told there might be a flood so everyone had to evacuate. We wanted to go and collect our stuff but we weren't allowed in because the river was so close," he said.  

He was relieved that the hotel had been given warning and no staff or tourists were in the Mueller when it flooded at about 1am. 

Maqungo said some staff went to the welfare centre but they were then given spare hotel rooms and other hotels and motels around town had opened their doors to them. 

They went back to the Mueller on Thursday to see if their belongings were damaged. 

"We are lucky because our rooms are OK. Some people had floating iPads in their rooms. It's pretty bad," he said. 

Scenic Hotel Group managing director, Brendan Taylor said "our priorities are ensuring the safety and comfort of our guests and staff".

"Where this is in any doubt, we are relocating to our two unaffected properties [Scenic Hotel Franz Josef and Te Waonui Forest Retreat]."

COUNCIL AWARE OF RISK

West Coast Regional Council chairman Andrew Robb said it had been aware of the Waiho River flood risk for a "long time".

The river bed had built up over time, increasing the risk of flooding in the area, Robb said.

"There's been flood protection on that river for years and years and years."

Work to maintain the stop bank was ongoing, he said. 

"People can say they [the council] are potting around, but there's been a lot of money spent on flood protection down there and people can only afford to pay so much.

"The amount of gravel that comes down that river is virtually impossible to deal with."

Robb said a discussion needed to be had about the long term future of the town. Some communities might have to move, he said.

"There might be little pockets of that land that is just way too expensive to protect."

The council, with the help of other stakeholders, recently bought motels on the southern side of the river because it was too dangerous for them to stay.

FLOOD WAS 'PREDICTABLE'

Long-time Franz Josef resident Gavin Molloy said what happened was "pretty predictable".

The Waiho River was one of New Zealand's "wildest".

"You can't tame it. If we keep pushing it on one side it will break on the other. I've seen it before. It flooded in 1987 and an airstrip got washed away five days after it was built. It's something this river does," Molloy said.

He called the flood risk a "man made problem".

"The regional council is responsible for the bank. The riverbed is building up to 500mm a year so it's going to push out the sides and we have melting glaciers that's the biggest problem.

"The regional council have been working on the bank for the past few weeks and they dug a trench to keep the water from where they were working and directed the water to where it's breached its banks. They've contributed to it," Molloy said.

He added the regional council could not control the weather "but it was only 175mm".

"I've been here when we've had 500mm [of rain] overnight," he said. 

Another resident, Arthur Richard, said the Waiho River was always going to break its banks, "it was just when".

"So it's been building up for a while and they've just been potting around. They'll have to sort it [the river] now." he said.

A pre-school had recently been built in the flooded area and other businesses also operated there, something Richards believed was "ludicrous" given the risk.

West Coast regional councillor Allan Birchfield said the issue of a flood risk had been before regional council meetings.

He declined to comment further, referring questions to the council's chairman.

Franz Josef Glacier School principal Janet Ristow said the water was running "hard and fast" on the school's back boundary, where the river had created a new channel.

"We have closed the school, "The school is sitting higher than the river," she said.

During Ristow's 15 years as principal there had been constant chatter about the river breaching its banks.

"They have been working on the north stop bank for a few months now. We've been in contact with Civil Defence for about the last month regarding evacuation procedures," she said.

Another Franz Josef resident, who asked not to be named, said "the town itself is fine".

"A couple of places [north of the town] have had a flood risk for years. It's been a known risk," he said.

Thompson said the area north of the town was a "known concern" in terms of flood risk.

"The whole effort was to get them [evacuees] out. Some of them just got in their cars and drove north," Thompson said.

The Waiho River did not flood often, but Thompson said flooding was expected over the weekend. 

"[We] didn't expect it last night," Thompson said.

Thompson said 138 millimetres of rain fell between 11pm and 3am.

RAIN EASING 

MetService issued a heavy rain warning for Buller and Westland. 

Fire Service spokesman Brent Dunn said a kindergarten also flooded.

Further north, firefighters were dealing with flooding in the Motueka and Riwaka areas, but rain was easing, he said. 

Franz Josef fire chief Mike Charles said he had been up since about 3am responding to the flooding.

"The rain seems to have eased a bit through the night," he said.

 

 - Stuff

Comments

Ad Feedback
special offers
Auckland

Mum, daughter shot dead

Wendy Campbell arrived at the house with daughter Natanya when they were shot dead.

A routine property inspection in Northland turned fatal when a mother and daughter arrived to carry out repairs.

Gunman 'likely dead' video

Police and the Fire Service man a cordon after the shooting.

Police say gunman who shot dead two women in rural Northland is "very unlikely" to have survived after house went up in flames.

Lotto winner pockets $1m

The winning ticket was sold at Pt Chevalier Lotto Plus in Auckland.

A lucky Auckland player is in for a mid-week celebration after winning big.

Power cut to 5,000 Auckland homes

The cause of the outage isn't yet known.

Households were affected from Mt Wellington to St Heliers.

Wellington

Step back in 'Horn time

Mary Tresch, a Swiss immigrant, started the iconic Matterhorn restaurant in Cuba st which is due to close after 54 years.

Mary Tresch remembers opening Wellington's Matterhorn, which was this week told it must close.

Reinsurer's warning

The Kaikoura quake recorded the greatest ground shaking in NZ history and caused huge damage to buildings in ...

Quake cover may become more expensive and harder to get, reinsurer says.

Caught twice in a week

Caught drunk driving twice in a week he was both times more than four times the legal limit.

Driver caught more than five times over the limit was on his way to get more booze.

Floods, crash in Wellington

State Highway 1 north of Tawa, near the scene of the crash.

Significant flooding on SH1 causes crash between truck and car north of Wellington.

Canterbury

Bold ideas for Cathedral Sq

Cathedral Square is due for a makeover.

Streams, trees, a wetland and covered market? A new concept design will be unveiled next week. 

Threat to city's water

The Waimakariri River is the primary source of Christchurch's drinking water.

Christchurch's public drinking water may become contaminated with nitrates from dairy farming.

Christchurch H&M opens Sept

The look of H&M's new stores.

Swedish fashion giant H&M will open on September 9 at the The Crossing.

The last person to see Michael

David Benbow outside his house in Halswell on Wednesday.

Prison guard at the centre of the missing builder inquiry has talked about when he last saw him.

Waikato

Waikato cop under investigation

Waikato police district commander Superintendent Bruce Bird is being investigated over interfering with daughter's arrest.

Top cop allegedly put pressure on another police officer to stop the arrest of his daughter.

Job losses in Thames

For more than 140 years, the furnace men at A&G Price's Thames jobbing foundry have begun the day with a shower of ...

A worker at A & G Price said staff were told they were now unemployed and not to come to work tomorrow.

Creepy cop betrays woman's trust

Sergeant Gregory David Waters, 53, appeared in Hamilton District Court on Wednesday after earlier being found guilty by ...

Sergeant was there to teach self-defence but he indecently assaulted a vulnerable woman.

Chiefs confident in travel plan

Aaron Cruden and his Chiefs side have got very used to the sight of buses and planes lately and are determined to ...

Needing to combat a hectic schedule, the Chiefs have gone right down to the nitty-gritty details.

Taranaki

Digital doctor double-up

A welcome sign celebrating the Patea Maori Club's iconic song greets visitors to Patea.

Patea now has two virtual services offering medical help while the hunt for new GPs carries on.

No relief for teachers

The relief teaching shortage is affecting classroom learning, according to Kim Manukonga of SyncEd.

Getting hold of a substitute teacher isn't getting any easier.

Saved with minutes to spare

The Taranaki Rescue Helicopter Trust rescued two people who fell on Mt Taranaki on Tuesday.

Two tourists are alive because of a huge team effort to rescue them on Mt Taranaki.

Ombudsman weighs in

Lee Hurley's complaint about New Zealand Transport Agency delays in processing his service provider application is being ...

Driving trainer says he wants $100,000 compensation from Government department.

Manawatu

Work starts on retirement village

26072017 news photo DAVID UNWIN/STUFF
Construction has begun on a retirement village on Napier Road.

The $50 million retirement village will have a 70-bed rest home, 18 apartments and 72 villas.

Gorge health concerns

Another slip fell on the already-closed Manawatu Gorge road at the weekend.

As the ambulances drive over the top of the cliff, patients have to wait longer.

Junior bike tracks to open

​Fletcher Collins, 4, and brother Harry Collins, 2, might be back with their bikes this summer when the Esplanade site ...

The final grant has been confirmed and a contract let for bike paths.

Pupils Evento ready

Alexis Van Hagen models a creation by Miah Marsters-Sasa in 2016.

The stage is set and so are the costumes as Evento celebrates its 21st birthday.  

Nelson

10 underrated NZ towns

Paeroa should be world famous in NZ for more than L&P.

Motueka and Murchison feature on a list of towns worth your while.

Nelson winery sold

Awatere River Wine Company founder and winemaker Louis Vavasour.

Well-established Nelson wine company sold to KiwiSaver investment company.

Dying man fulfills wish

Doug Murcott and Sally Tolliday on their wedding day at the Nelson Tasman Hospice.

Doug Murcott loses his fight with cancer days after fulfilling his wish to marry his partner.

New direct flight route

Originair will offer direct flights between New Plymouth and Nelson from late-September.

Nelson and New Plymouth are to have a direct air link.

Marlborough

Scoring a bullseye

Despite badly injuring her hand six months ago Shannon Campbell has been selected to play at the Australasian Championships.

A darts player left with a horrific injury to her hand has beaten the odds to become one of New Zealand's top players.

Cycle trail will happen - advocate

A cycleway will run along the edge of this damaged stretch of SH1, just south of Ohau Point, as part of $231 million of ...

Government chips in to build stretch around Ohau Point, deemed the most difficult section.

Time to fix 'scary' highway

The section of State Highway 6 from Okaramio to Havelock is the most dangerous stretch on the Blenheim to Nelson road, ...

The road from Blenheim to Nelson has claimed 12 lives in 10 years. Now it's a priority.

Boat ramp back in action

Now the slipway has been excavated, it takes the Coastguard boat Kaikoura Rescue half the time to respond to an emergency.

Eight months post-quake and the Coastguard Kaikoura ramp at South Bay has been officially re-opened.

South Canterbury

More rain and snow on way

Federated Farmers meat and fibre president Miles Anderson has advised farmers to be prepared for the predicted bad weather.

Farming leader questions how much more rain water-logged soil can handle.

Infected cows must go

Labour spokesman for primary industries Damien O'Connor is calling for all the cows on the property where Mycoplasma ...

The 150 stricken cattle on a South Canterbury farm should be put down, MP says.

Luxton to meet with ECan

Rangitata Labour Party candidate Jo Luxton.

Labour candidate to push ahead with efforts to have ECan change woodburner policies.

Council hotly denies claims

A smoky chimney in Timaru.

ECan shoots down claim by former policeman it could be caught by peeping tom rule.

Southland

Resident wants to beautify wharf

Bluff resident Cherie Chapman stands near the closed Bluff Wharf which she wants to see it beautified and made open to ...

Bluff resident Cherie Chapman has put her case to the Bluff Community Board to restore the old Bluff wharf and return it to the public.

Let sleeping seals lie

The seal is believed to have travelled up the nearby Waiau river, and was found about 10kms from the sea.

DOC is asking the public to trust its judgement when it comes to dealing with wild animals.

MPI proposing changes

10082016. News.Kavinda Herath. Southland Times/FairfaxNZ-Uplift of oysters to tanker in  Big Glory Bay, Stewart Island today

MPI is hosting a public meeting about proposed changes to the aquaculture industry.

Coroner reminds hunters of gun safety after death

Cromwell man Garry Tall, 61, was killed in a hunting accident on the Old Woman Range in March 2016.

Cromwell man Garry Tall was an experienced hunter but on March 3, 2016, he died after shooting himself in the stomach after a hunt.

Ad Feedback