Christchurch deluge a 'one-in-100-year' storm

NICOLE MATHEWSON, SARAH-JANE O'CONNOR AND BLAIR ENSOR
Last updated 16:57 05/03/2014
DANIEL TOBIN/Fairfax NZ

Georgina Stylianou talks to Francis Ave resident Alison Naylor about her flooded house.

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Krystal Merrick and Dan Evans from the NZRT-12 Emergency Response/Rescue Team travel up the Heathcote River flooding waters along Riverlaw Terrace in their new rescue boat, donated from the lotteries ministry travel with a Red Cross member from RC23 team.

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The storm causing flooding in Christchurch "quickly escalated" this morning and was now being graded as a one-in-100-year event, says mayor Lianne Dalziel.

Residents were being warned of health risks from contaminated floodwaters now pouring through homes, businesses and streets.

Meanwhile, two Lyttelton streets were evacuated after a cliff collapsed, breaching a jet fuel tank and causing a spill. Police said 19 houses were cleared on fears of further slips in the area.


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The gale-force blast that caused havoc across the region yesterday had eased but heavy rain overnight caused widespread disruption and despair.

Dalziel said the storm had been considered a one in 50-year event early this morning but had been upgraded.

Householders needing emergency repairs were advised to call 0800 777 846 to go through the Fletchers EQR emergency repair process.

Dalziel urged employers to stagger finish times to help the city reduce peak traffic loads.

Homes in Woolston were swamped as the Heathcote River breached its banks before high tide this morning.

About 100 homes in Richmond, St Albans and Mairehau had flooded, and it was feared the number could be higher as more damage from the storm was discovered today.

Akaroa and Sumner residents had been cut off from the rest of the region, with flooding forcing the closure of main roads.

> What you need to know: Find out about road and school closures, flooding areas

HELPLESS AS HOMES INUNDATED

Residents watched helplessly as water crept up and eventually invaded their homes.

In Sheldon St, Woolston, Mike Barber maintained a brave face as he waded through waist deep water carrying belongings from the property he rented.

Inside, the home's carpets were covered by at least 30cm of water.

Valuables were perched above the water on tables and beds.

Barber said he and his flatmate's belongings were uninsured.

"You've just got to get on with it. There's not a lot you can do."

Meanwhile, Warrington St and surrounding areas were blocked off by floodwaters with many residents evacuated.

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Residents said they were frustrated by the lack of support they have received from authorities following flooding events last year.

Water is also nearly waist-deep in Thornton St where homes have flooded.

Council land drainage operations manager Mike Gillooly said last night that shops on Edgeware Rd and at the intersection of Hills and Shirley roads had been sandbagged, but sandbags had not been used at many houses.

"There's a lot of people out there in distressed situations. This is a significant event.

"We've deployed sandbags where we think they'll be some use . . . but sadly for a lot of people we just can't go out and sandbag every house."

'WORST SINCE 1975'

Earlier, council land drainage operations manager Mike Gillooly said the storm was the "worst since 1975".

The council was "continually analysing" the full effect of the storm, he said.

A Fire Service spokesman said firefighters had received about 300 calls for help in Canterbury overnight and had about 40 jobs in the queue at 8.30am.

Almost all of the calls were related to flooding, including people needing help evacuating or weather-proofing their homes.

Police were warning against unnecessary travel. They said motorists should reduce their speed and not ignore road-closed signs.

Police had received numerous calls from drivers stuck in flooding overnight.

"People are still insisting on driving through and getting their cars stuck," he said.

WINDS WHIP WELLINGTON

Logs have been left strewn across Wellington's south coast after massive waves and winds of more than 100kmh pummeled the capital.

The road around Moa Point on the city's South Coast was closed this morning after a 10 metre slip came down from an embankment near the end of the Wellington Airport runway. The road was cleared and re-opened by midday.

Rocks were flung on to a Wellington south coast road overnight by the storm that had winds reaching 110kmh.

MetService was warning of more southerly gales and rain today before the low disappears.

Wellington's strongest gust was Mt Kaukau above Wellington which had a 110kmh gust at 3am, forecaster Heath Gullery said.

The rough weather in Cook Strait meant all Interislander ferries between Wellington and Picton had been cancelled until further notice, spokeswoman Sophie Lee said.

Bluebridge last night cancelled three return sailings between Picton and Wellington but services were returned to normal today. However, some delays could be expected as a backlog was cleared, it said.

As the front approached, it whipped up high seas, with swells of up to 10 metres in Cook Strait.

Sailings of the Wellington Harbour commuter ferry have been cancelled.

FURTHER NORTH

MetService has issued a severe weather watch warning of severe southerly gales possible in inland Wairarapa and coastal Hawke's Bay, including Mahia Peninsula.

There is also a good chance of heavy rain in south Wairarapa and northern Hawke's Bay from tonight until tomorrow morning.

> Find out more about the Wellington storm here.

- The Press

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