One-in-100-year flood swamps Christchurch

Last updated 16:09 05/03/2014

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

Photo: Joseph Johnson/Fairfax NZ Zoom
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.

Flooding hits Christchurch

Exeter St floods
Julia Sugarman Zoom
MAD RUSH: Residents shovel swiftly to save this Exeter St, Lyttelton, home from water damage.

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Residents are being warned of health risks from contaminated floodwaters now pouring through homes, businesses and streets in flooding described as a one-in-100 year event.

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The gale-force blast that wreaked havoc across Canterbury yesterday has eased, but heavy rain overnight has caused widespread disruption and despair.

Mayor Lianne Dalziel said the storm had "quickly escalated" from a one-in-50 to be graded a one-in-100-year event.

Worst affected suburbs were St Albans, Avondale, New Brighton and Woolston.

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

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

Information on cancellations and closures can be found here.


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

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

In Sheldon St, 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.

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."


About 3500 homes remained without power at 4pm - most in Banks Peninsula, although some pockets of Christchurch and surrounding areas were also experiencing outages.

Lines company Orion said winds were easing, but flooding, slips and water-logged ground in the hills was preventing access to parts of the electricity network. Access issues were likely to continue for the next few days.

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It was not known how long it would take to restore power, but it was likely some homes would be without power overnight. Orion said many customers may face days without power and asked people to prepare accordingly.

Orion had been forced to cut supply to two kiosks on its network today because of floodwaters.

The move was for vital for safety reasons and to limit damage to infrastructure, the company said.

People were advised to prepare for further possible power outages, particularly around the Avon and Heathcote rivers.

Anyone who saw a fallen power line was warned to stay clear and call Orion on 0800 363 9898 immediately.


Children played in the water as streets turned into a pool near the Warrington shopping centre.

Supreme Chinese Restaurant owner Lim Huang was the only business owner in the centre. His restaurant had stayed dry, but no customers would venture there for the day.

''We can't open without customers,'' he said.

Damage was visible outside Schroeder's Tavern with bits of wood and gravel all over the terrace.

In Woolston, the Tannery was open, but most of the carpark was flooded.

Brewery co-owner Zak Cassels said water started coming inside the door the night before, but staff had it draining away in time.

The Tannery was quieter than usual but still ''reasonably busy,'' he said.

Parts of Edgeware Rd were closed and several shops had to pile sandbags in front of their doors.

Beckenham Post Shop and Pharmacy owner Grant Kilday said water had risen to about 12 centimetres of water in the shop.

''Things are floating around here like a duck pond,'' he said.

He had called the council, the fire brigade and his insurance and was waiting for help.

He said the shop was the only one standing in the neighbourhood after the quakes.

''We survived the quakes but we are just undergoing the flood now.''

Kilday hoped to be able to reopen tomorrow. 

Peter Timbs Meat on Edgeware Rd had about six inches of water throughout the shop.

Owner Peter Timbs was not too worried as the council had reacted swiftly and had send someone to pump water out of the shop. 

''There's water right through the shop, but fortunately it's clean,'' he said.

At the Westfield Riccarton mall, it was business as usual.

A spokesperson said a few retailers had to open a bit later this morning, but it was business as usual otherwise.

''It's a typical day here at the moment.''


AA Insurance said it had received about 20 claims for flood and storm-related damage in Christchurch and expected that number to more than double by the end of the day.

Customer relations head Suzanne Wolton said it was too early to estimate the cost of the damage.

Most damage was water-related and included flooded houses and garages, damaged roofs and vehicles that had become stuck in water.

Wolton urged customers to make any necessary claims as soon as possible, especially if emergency repairs were needed to make homes watertight.

In the meantime, residents were advised to check their property and secure anything that could cause damage to another part of the property or a neighbours' property.  

"During a storm we generally have a number of claims related to trampolines and other outdoor equipment flying over to the neighbours' and damaging their property, or creating havoc on your own property," Wolton said.


Council land drainage operations manager Mike Gillooly said the storm was the "worst since 1975". "That was a 100-year rainfall event. We know [this is] more than a 50-year event. It's very significant."

He said all floodwater should be treated as contaminated.

Anyone who came in contact with contaminated water should wash their hands and remove and wash any clothing that got wet.

The council was "continually analysing" the full effect of the storm and hoped to have more data available within a few hours, 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.

"They were doing evacuations through the night. A lot's just going to people, reassuring people."

Police have rescued a number of people stuck in cars and helped evacuate homes. Acting Inspector Glenn Nalder said police had also found vehicles floating in water on Barrington St.

At 4.40am, two cars collided on Johns Rd when one vehicle "aqua-planed" on surface water.

Nalder said police were not issuing a blanket warning to stay off the roads but advised against unnecessary travel.


The Christchurch City Council said the rain was much heavier than expected and up to 100 houses were believed to have been affected by floodwaters.

High tide was expected to hit Kerrs Reach about 10.15am, causing the Heathcote and Avon rivers to spill their banks in places.

MetService forecaster John Law said Banks Peninsula had experienced the most rainfall over the last 24 hours, with almost 150mm recorded in Lyttelton.

The amount of rain was less further west, with 72mm recorded at Christchurch Airport.

The wild weather had been brought by southwesterly winds and a low pressure system off the east coast of the South Island.

The system was still hanging out, meaning more wind and rain was in store for Canterbury.

Severe weather warnings of gales and heavy rain were expected to remain until 2pm today, when the wild weather was forecast to ease.

"Unfortunately we've still got more to come. It will start to ease off, but it's another 20 to 50mm on top of what we've already seen."

North Canterbury could get even more, with MetService forecasting a further 50 to 80mm for the region north of Oxford, including the seaward Kaikoura Range.


Woolston resident Christina Binnema said this morning's flooding of her Smith St property was the worst she had seen in 30 years.

"It's worse than the friggin' earthquakes."

She said her sleepout and garage were flooded and all the contents damaged. "I walk off my back deck and straight into two to three inches of water."

Water was creeping up to Louise Oskam's front door on Fifield Tce in Opawa this morning.

"My neighbours, who've been here 35 years, said it's the worst flooding they've ever seen."

She had lived on the street for about two years and had seen the road on other side of the Heathcote River flood about "half a dozen times".

"It's just such a surprise to see this side of the river flood."

Oskam was preparing her 7-year-old daughter Bethany for possible power cuts or an evacuation.

"[She] is really excited about it all. She said 'what if it gets higher, will we have to get my boat out of the garage'."


Debs Sinclair said she had been trying to get someone to check the water that comes up on her land since the February 2011 earthquake.

"I had EQC out in the early days, but nothing happened. I'm trying basically to get a proper inspection done."

Her Hargood St property had been constantly flooded since the quake, with water and silt stuck under the house.

"There's water there all the time. There was water there when it was 30 degrees the other week."

The house was green-zoned, but deemed TC3.

"It is going to get worse. I had to get someone to pick me up [for work], I wouldn't have got the car out this morning."


Early this morning Burwood-Pegasus Community Board chairwoman Andrea Cummings urged people to stay home today and not go to work or school.

"It's at that level where lives would be lost."

She had opened her home at 58 Waratah St as an unofficial welfare centre and took in an elderly neighbour and her cat after their Hulverstone Dr home was "inundated" with water.

She waded through waist-deep water to reach the woman, whose home had been red-zoned.

"She will lose most of her possessions. She's safe and warm and her family know. We couldn't get her out to her family across the city because of the flooding."

However, an elderly man living nearby refused to leave his home overnight, despite warnings from emergency services that they might not be able to rescue him if the flooding got worse.

"The emergency services were saying last night they can't come and rescue you if you get your car flooded or whatever unless there's a danger to your life."

Cummings' husband experienced a "very very dangerous" drive home from an overnight shift at Lyttelton Port this morning.

"Lyttelton is just basically one big mud field. Redcliffs had a collapsing [hillside] because of the rain, the tunnel road has slips all along it," she said.

"It's definitely scary out there. It's at the level where we have to look after each other like we did after the February earthquake."

- The Press


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