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Clean-up continues in Plimmerton after “exceptional” flooding

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Flooding in Plimmerton. Jane Mather photo from RNZ

Report from RNZ
Plimmerton residents are today continuing to face a big clean-up, a day after water surged through properties in the seaside town north of Wellington.

Plimmerton fire chief Carl Mills said it was an exceptional event and something he hadn’t witnessed before during 25 years of service.

Plimmerton was hit by torrential rain leaving some residents ankle deep in water in their living rooms. Flooding closed State Highway 1 from Plimmerton to Paekakariki, causing major traffic delays.

The deluge caught Plimmerton local Hazel Kale by surprise. She woke up at 8am to the flooding and left the house to check on her father, Trevor, who was trapped by the rain.

“We were just surrounded by water. We got water off the road, coming down from the hills, on to our property. So we were absolutely surrounded by water.”

He said it wasn’t the first time flooding had occurred. “We’ve had a couple the last three or four years. Next door has been flooded out two or three times now, but this is probably the worst one that we had.”

Resident Dave Anderson’s home was also flooded. He told Morning Report his house was a mess, and that the floors were sodden with water.

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Flooding aftermath in Plimmerton. Jane Mather photo from RNZ

“Outside on the road it’s just full of slush, it’s about knee-high deep. We’re waiting on the contractors to come and pick it up.”

He said the community response to the emergency had been incredible. “People who we didn’t know came down with wheelbarrows and shovels, cakes, fish and chips and we got it all cleaned-up outside. But now we have to sort out inside, which is going to be a challenge.”

Porirua council crews are continuing with the clean-up this morning.

Emergency services said they couldn’t stop a huge amount of debris from blocking drains and contributing to flash flooding in Plimmerton yesterday. Fifteen homes were declared uninhabitable.

Plimmerton fire chief Carl Mills told Morning Report the clean-up had been an incredible community effort, meaning most of the roadways were passable, apart from one street. But some homes had been severely flooded, with living rooms filled with water knee-high, he said.

“We were able to help six properties pump out residual water. The good thing is a lot of the water has gone, but now the sadness will set in with the internal property damage and with people recognising how this has impacted them.”

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Flooding in Karehana Park. Photo from RNZ by Stasia Jackson

Most of the water pooled around Karehana Park, which is in a narrow valley. “The valley has a few more sub-valleys with houses going up and rain has literally been funnelled all down to this one location and in many cases there’s been one house at the bottom of a kind of mini trough and they’ve born the brunt of, not just water, but silt and debris which has come right up against walls, blocked in cars.”

He said drains couldn’t cope and debris cascading down the valley was too much for authorities to stop. A high-tide at 10am at the peak of the rainfall made matters worse. “The amount of debris that had been washed down was something I haven’t seen in 25 years, with trees stumps … and things we just couldn’t stop. This was quite exceptional.”

MetService is forecasting patchy periods of rain from midday that will intensify later in the afternoon. Heavy rain is forecast for this evening, starting at about 7pm.

Mills said local authorities would be looking closely to ensure drains remained unblocked and had capacity to deal with it. Council crews have a big job on their hands today – clearing silt left by flash flooding.

Porirua Mayor Anita Baker said she was grateful to everyone who had offered to help with the clean-up. She denied the state of the drains were to blame for the damaging flood.

“We had a 7.1 high-tide, we had torrential rain and yes, our culverts got blocked because we had so many logs and branches coming down. Yes, we have issues with some of our pipes, but I think that it was the amount of rain that actually came through the valley that time. I think the residents and the council have done a fabulous job getting in there and helping out.”