Family at mercy of elements after seawall collapse

BEN HEATHER
Last updated 05:00 22/06/2013
Reece Kohatu

SURVEYING THE DAMAGE: Reece Kohatu looks at the remains of the seawall smashed by waves which flooded his home.

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Reece Kohatu used to have a seaside view. Now the sea is downstairs, flooding the bottom of his Wellington home in a salty soup.

At 2.30am yesterday, the seawall protecting the back of Mr Kohatu's Lyall Bay property collapsed under the repeated pounding of the surf.

The force of the water ripped up the concrete in his backyard, pouring through the downstairs windows and pushing open the deadlocked door.

"It's surreal. You think you've got a wall and then, just like that, nature just takes it away."

By morning, the bottom storey of the house was submerged in half a metre of filthy sea water. The stairs from the top floor down to the backyard are now strapped to the fence for safekeeping after they were wrenched free of the house.

Mr Kohatu, his partner, Toni Roberts, and their 4-year-old daughter, Mihirangi, are camped upstairs for the foreseeable future but the water below shows no sign of abating.

By 2.30pm yesterday, the tide was high again.

The sea rushed through the breached wall, flooding the Queens Drive property again even as Mr Kohatu and his friends tried to plug the gap with broken slabs of concrete.

"We're at the mercy of the elements now," he said.

The two adjoining properties were also flooded for a second time. One neighbour, Pippa Lee, already has a two-metre-wide hole in her backyard from where the water ate away the ground beneath the seawall early yesterday morning.

"I just don't want the wall to break," Ms Lee said.

Ms Roberts said she was more worried about the king tide on Sunday.

The family would probably move out temporarily from their waterlogged home at that point, she said.

It was the second time the downstairs part of the home had flooded due to high seas in the past two years but, with the wall breached, this was the worst, she said.

"I would say it's done about $40,000 of damage."

Among the items lost in the salty water were many of Mihirangi's toys. "She was crying a bit about her toys but once she saw her Barbie was okay, she was better."

The fire service was due to visit the property late yesterday afternoon and insurers would assess the damage on Monday.

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- The Dominion Post

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