Heartbreaking cleanup in flood-stricken Edgecumbe video

CHRISTEL YARDLEY/Stuff.co.nz

Residents have been sifting through remains in Edgecumbe only to find their items are now rubbish.

They were too wet, the writing had gone and they stunk.

All the Smith family's baby photos took a journey that has become commonplace on the streets of Edgecumbe - from flood-damaged homes to a pile of rubbish and into the landfill.

A fortnight ago, around 1600 people were evacuated when the flood wall crumbled after ex-tropical Cyclone Debbie washed through.

Edgecumbe home owner, Jimine Smith, in the middle of a massive cleanup.
CHRISTEL YARDLEY/FAIRFAX NZ

Edgecumbe home owner, Jimine Smith, in the middle of a massive cleanup.

While some houses in the red zone of the Bay of Plenty town remain off limits, mass cleanup efforts in the remaining flood-affected homes are well underway.

Some scenes, such as the Smiths throwing their treasured baby photos away, are heart breaking.

Sodden lounge suites, fridges, freezers, chairs and mud soaked mattresses are stacked on the roadside; rubbish - children's trikes and toys - are strewn outside homes. 

Life the Smith family knew it is gone for the foreseeable future.
CHRISTEL YARDLEY/FAIRFAX NZ

Life the Smith family knew it is gone for the foreseeable future.

Piles of mud line the gutters along Rata Ave - two weeks ago it was under more than a metre of water.

In the drain, a pair of pink children's shorts punctuate the putrid sludge.

Walking along the front of a recently sold five bedroom home, your gumboots sink to the calf amid potholes of drowned grass.

Belongings have been turned into waste on the street.
CHRISTEL YARDLEY/FAIRFAX NZ

Belongings have been turned into waste on the street.

Boundaries between private and public property have dissolved as workers and volunteers trudge mud through empty homes.

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Most houses in the Zone 4 area, a street back from where the stopbank burst, have been stripped to their bones.

Carpet, flooring, walls, insulation have been ripped out and hurled into skips.

An estimated 30 bins are filled with people's possessions and treasures each day.

Sprayed onto the windows of almost every house down Rata Ave is an orange 'no go'. The occasional one gets a yellow c - for clear.

For the residents that have returned home the reality is sinking in. 

Silt ridden and smelly carpet has been ripped off the floor.
CHRISTEL YARDLEY/FAIRFAX NZ

Silt ridden and smelly carpet has been ripped off the floor.

Their backyards are no longer places of sanctuary, to sit around the table with friends and family, share a few beers and cook a barbecue. Now they are mud pits and, in some cases, streams.

Jimine Smith is among those who've been hurling contaminated furniture out of their homes for days.

Her weatherboard cottage is now a shell.

Heavy machinery does the heavy lifting.
CHRISTEL YARDLEY/FAIRFAX NZ

Heavy machinery does the heavy lifting.

"It's stressful," the mother of two teenagers says.

Smith had just left her house a fortnight ago when the river burst its banks. A neighbour called and told her. Then she waited.

"Each day we were wondering what was happening and we couldn't get access to our house, which was even more stressing, not to see what the outcome was, but we definitely got to see the outcome now."

It's hard work recovering from the Edgecumbe flood.
CHRISTEL YARDLEY/FAIRFAX NZ

It's hard work recovering from the Edgecumbe flood.

It wasn't pretty.

"It was like, woah - things had travelled through the house to the back."

About 60cm of water swept through their home on April 6. It left a trail of silt coating their carpets and possessions.

What remains of a Smith family bedroom.
CHRISTEL YARDLEY/FAIRFAX NZ

What remains of a Smith family bedroom.

All her Mother's Day cards, birthday cards and family photographs were washed away.

"Baby photos, they all had to go - they were too wet, the writing had gone and they stunk. Those are my treasures what my kids gave to me.

"We had the earthquake back in 1986 and after that the house had to be all re-done. This is the second big disaster we've had."

The family made trip after trip carrying things onto the roadside. They chucked their clothes and kitchen equipment into nearby skips.

The house was "just all full of silt, that mucky mud and it stinks".

Smith was covered by contents insurance but felt for those who didn't have any.

"I'm very lucky that I have insurance. I'll make sure I will be keeping with that all my life, you never know what will happen."

Over the road, Smith's aunt and uncle's home is completely written off.

Smith, her partner and two children, aged 16 and 18, have been staying in temporary accommodation and have now been offered a house in Matata.

"At the moment we are just all over the place - we definitely won't be back in here for awhile."

 - Stuff

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