Wellington Scoop

Stranded tourists to be rescued by helicopter

News from RNZ
About 100 guests stuck at Blue Duck Station near Taumarunui are to be evacuated by helicopter later today. Around 120 people were trapped yesterday afternoon, but 14 have since been airlifted out.

Work to clear the roads of slips has run into difficulty, with new slips coming down trapping machinery.

Ruapehu Emergency Management Officer Nick Watson said the decision had been made to try and fly the stranded guests out this afternoon.

He said they would also be flying in fresh supplies of food and water for about 20 people, including the lodge owners and staff who will be remaining behind.

Yesterday, helicopters delivered an electricity generator to the station.

Fire and Emergency said they received no weather related call outs overnight.

Flood barriers were set up in Whanganui last night but river levels have started to drop.

Part of State Highway 56 in the Horowhenua district has been closed due to flooding. The stretch of highway in the Opiki area, has been shut off between the intersections of Tane Road and Alve Road.

Motorists are being advised to use State Highway 57 instead.

Report from RNZ – March 8
Flooding and slips caused by heavy rain have closed State Highway 5 between Napier and Taupo and some roads in the Wairarapa. Whanganui is also poised to install flood protection barriers today after heavy rain overnight.

NZTA said it was not clear when the Napier-Taupo Road would reopen. A detour route was in place via Palmerston North on State Highway 1 and 2, which would add four to five hours to the journey.

People at several properties, a campground and a boarding school near Napier have been evacuated this morning due to the threat from flooding.

A Hawke’s Bay Regional Council spokesperson said 218 properties in the riverside settlement of Eskdale were put on notice to prepare to self-evacuate this morning and some did. He said the council was monitoring the situation but the river has already dropped by half a metre.

Meanwhile, in the Wairarapa, Castlepoint was cut off by slips on the Masterton-Castlepoint Road and the Whangaehu Valley Road was blocked by fallen trees.

Contractors were also working to clear slips, surface water and fallen trees on Homewood Road at Waihora, Wairiri Road, Bideford Road and Hinakura Road.

At Pipiriki, 79km upriver from Whanganui, river levels have risen to more than 11 metres – eight metres higher than normal.

Council spokesman Ramon Strong said the Whanganui River was expected to peak at 7.9 metres at about 5pm.

“We’re monitoring it at the moment, and it’s likely we’ll install an inflatable barrier this morning if required. We’re taking a precautionary approach but it’s not going to be a major flood event.”

The Manawatū and Rangitikei Rivers were also running high.

“This may cause some delays to the works underway at Ashhurst Domain but we do not expect it to cause any significant damage to the site. The erosion works behind Victoria Esplanade have been secured and the contractors working on the He Ara Kotahi Bridge have implemented their flood contingency plan.

“The Manawatū River is expected to peak at 4.2 metres at Teachers’ College this evening and may result in a road closure at Opiki, SH56 this evening. At this stage there is no further significant rainfall forecasted so we don’t expect any other issues.”

UPDATE at 3pm from NZTA
State Highway 5, the Napier to Taupō Road, is now open but people are being reminded to take extra care. People can still expect delays as there will be parts of the road down to one lane.

UPDATE at 3.30pm from Hawkes Bay Emergency Management
The situation in Hawke’s Bay has eased. River levels have dropped however 50 to 60mm of rain is expected to continue overnight, but spread over a longer period of time. Residents who self-evacuated can return home but those in the Esk River catchment area are asked to remain prepared to evacuate at short notice should the situation change.

People whose homes have had flood waters through them are advised to call Hastings District Council regarding building inspections (24 hour phone number 871 5000). For information on whether flood-affected food and water is safe see information from the District Health Board: http://bit.ly/2tq7Nzd

Hawke’s Bay Civil Defence Emergency Management will continue to monitor the situation overnight.

Road users are advised to continue to take extra care on the roads, with surface flooding likely to continue. NZTA has advised that State Highway 5 and State Highway 2 are open, but extreme care is required.

Local roads which continue to be closed or are down to one lane are: Heays Rd (single lane); Glengarry Rd (closed); Waipunga Rd (closed); Seafield (4WD only); Hedgely Rd (closed); Shaw Rd (closed); Puketitiri Rd from Rissington to Pakatutu (single lane); Taiahape Rd (single lane in several places.)

Unison advised that less than 20 homes are without power in the Rissington area and staff were working to reconnect them.

News from Ruapehu District Council
Around 120 people are needing to spend the night at the Blue Duck Lodge, Whakahoro, on the Retaruke River following last night’s heavy rain. Ruapehu Emergency Management Officer Nick Watson said slips on the access road and a flooded river had cut access to the lodge.

“Ruapehu Civil Defence has been in contact with the lodge owners and organised for a helicopter and food to be dropped in which arrived around 15:30 this afternoon,” he said. “They advise that everyone is warm, safe and happy for tonight with enough supplies for tonight and into tomorrow. We will be watching the weather situation overnight and making a decision on evacuations in the morning.”

In other parts of Ruapehu we still have SH43 closed with multiple slips between Haeo and Tahora on the Forgotten World Highway. In the Taumarunui area the water has dropped away but left several garages needing to be cleaned up. We are also getting reports from farmers who have suffered damage to tracks and fences

Ruapehu Civil Defence will remain on stand-by overnight in case there are any developments.”

News from Horizons District Council
Flood barriers at Kowhai Park in Whanganui have been activated as a precautionary measure. Horizons Regional Council corporate and governance group manager Craig Grant says that Whanganui River levels are expected to peak at about 10.7 metres within the next hour or so.

“High tide is expected at approximately 4am for Whanganui, with the river peaking at Whanganui Town Bridge at around 4am also.

“We have no concerns of a breach, however with the peak occurring overnight we felt the barriers provided some assurance. We will continue to monitor the situation and are in contact with our emergency management officer at Whanganui District Council.”

Another river that is on watch overnight is the Manawatū River, which will peak at Teachers’ College in Palmerston North at approximately 2am.

“While this will result in high flows through the city, there is no concern for residents’ safety,” says Mr Grant. “We do however have staff on standby for the Motua floodgates further downstream, which may need to be opened around daylight tomorrow morning.

“It is also very likely that SH56 at Opiki will be closed overnight due to the spillway operating.

“Horizons staff are contacting affected landowners in the area tonight, to ensure they move stock before dark. We have also made contractors at Whirokino aware of the situation.

“For all other rivers and their tributaries in the region, we have no concerns but will continue to monitor.

“There will be localised flooding and roading issues, such as those experienced at Blue Duck Station today. All of these situations are being handled by emergency management teams at the relevant city and district councils.”