Flood waters recede in Whanganui, town cut off
MICHAEL DALY, CHRIS HYDE AND NICOLE PRYOR
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A state of emergency has been lifted in Whanganui as river levels recede, but the only road to a coastal settlement south of the city will stay closed.
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Flood waters from the Turakina River were up to 3 metres deep on Turakina Beach Rd at one point and Rangitikei District Council said severe flooding would keep the road closed tonight.
The road provided access to the settlement of Turakina Beach where about 100 people live.
Rangitikei council infrastructure group manager Hamish Waugh said the flooding was not expected to get any worse, but he did not know when the road could be reopened.
The residents were not completely cut off, as there was an informal agreement with a forest owner for them to use a track through the forest at times when the road was closed.
But Waugh said he thought the forest track was only suitable for four-wheel-drive vehicles.
In Whanganui, Civil Defence controller Kevin Ross said the level of the Whanganui River had dropped significantly.
There was no further risk of flooding or risk to the stopbanks.
"We are contacting the people who were evacuated from their properties to let them know they can go back to their homes immediately," Ross said.
"Building and environmental health teams have been checking those properties and all properties inspected are safe to return to." Some property owners are receiving assistance from the Fire Service to pump water from garages and lime is being applied under a number of homes that had water under them.
Overnight the Whanganui River only slight breached stopbanks at Kowhai Park in the city, while 138 people registered with a centre set up to help people evacuated from their homes.
"There is no doubt that the sandbags along the stopbanks at Kowhai Park saved us," Ross said.
"The water was 300mm up those sandbags last night so without them the properties along Anzac Parade would have been flooded. Huge thanks to the Army personnel who filled and placed the sandbags."
In rural areas of Whanganui district the flooding had considerable impact, particularly on the eastern side of the river, including serious land slips and damage to farm tracks.
Horizons Regional Council staff carried out an aerial survey of the lower Whanganui, Whangaehu and Turakina catchments to establish the extent of flooding.
"Initial reports from the survey state there has been a reasonably significant inundation of water in rural areas of lower Turakina, although not as bad as 2004," incident controller Ged Shirley said.
At Turakina Beach, Liz Hawes said he river on Turakina Beach Rd was at a similar level during 2004 Manawatu floods, which cut power and phone lines for several days and caused damage to Tini Waitara Marae.
"You can see the power poles sticking out of the water but you can't see the fences," she said.
With no shops or petrol stations, and no way for milk trucks to get in, it was possible the farming community would be living off "an enormous supply of milk" in the next few days, Hawes said.
"Like so many other isolated towns we're all pulling together and although it's not looking good at the moment, we'll get through it," she said.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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