29 Aug 2008

Clean-up begins as flooding leaves trail of destruction

12:31 pm on 29 August 2008

A clean-up operation is continuing in parts of the South Island which have been affected by flooding. Heavy rain and flooding is beginning to ease, but not before leaving a trail of evacuations, sodden land and lost livestock.

Civil Defence says river levels were expected to drop by Wednesday, leaving a major mess. It says there will be significant debris on roads and farm fence lines.

Landslides, slips and flooding caused by heavy rain since Sunday have blocked roads and railway lines from Marlborough to Canterbury. The Transport Agency says the repair bill could be as much as $2 million.

State Highway 1 between Cheviot and Ward is closed by up to 30 slips and washouts and was likely to reopen on Wednesday afternoon.

The section of the highway north of Kaikoura was expected to re-open about midday on Wednesday, but it would be mid-afternoon before the Kaikoura to Cheviot highway is cleared. State Highway 7A at Hanmer Springs also remained closed.

The South Island's main railway line from Christchurch to Picton remained closed as workers continue to clear boulders and other debris. Ontrack says it could be Thursday before the line reopens.

Canterbury Civil Defence says the rain has eased in Kaikoura, but all waterways will continue to be monitored.

Areas at risk in Picton and Blenheim have been sandbagged. Marlborough District Council says its greatest concern is flooding in some low-lying suburban areas.

Property owners near the Omaka and Opawa rivers have been on alert. A number of low-lying vineyards surrounding Blenheim have also been affected.

Evacuees from Picton's Alexander Holiday Park, and from houses in the Blenheim suburbs of Redwoodtown and Fairhall, were housed at Queen Charlotte College.

Water trucked to Cheviot

At least 500 people in the North Canterbury town of Cheviot are still without water after 10 metres of the main line to the water reservoir was washed away in flooding.

A Hurunui District Council spokesperson, Naomi Woodham, says staff found the breakage on Wednesday, when water levels in the Leamington River dropped enough for them to inspect it safely.

Ms Woodham says the water was still too high for repairs to be carried out, but the council hopes the pipe will be fixed on Thursday.

She says the council has loaned a large milk tanker from dairy giant Fonterra, which it has filled with clean drinking water and parked in Cheviot for residents' use. The council is lending large water containers to people who do not have their own.

North Island damage

In Auckland, Manukau City Council says it has been forced to close the main road to Kawakawa Bay until at least Friday because of the risk of significant land slips after heavy rain.

Contractors have cleared the road of earlier slips, but it remains closed to traffic because further slips are causing debris to fall on to the road at a constant rate. The closure means about 1500 people will have to use a longer, alternative route.

Council spokesperson Rick Walden says 500 cubic metres of earth came down on to the road at the weekend after heavy rain, and there is now a significant risk of more to follow.

And North Shore City Council says four families evacuated after a slip will have to wait at least another few days before being advised of whether they can return home.

Emergency services cordoned off four homes in the suburb of Unsworth Heights last night after a landslip brought down at least 60,000 tonnes of earth and debris.

Two of the four properties have been deemed "high risk", and the Earthquake Commission says at least one may have to be demolished.

A water supply tank was destroyed in the slip, which runs for at least 100 metres behind the properties. They remain cordoned off, and residents have been allowed back only to gather belongings.

The council says engineers and surveyors will continue drilling bores into the slip face on Wednesday to assess whether any further movement is likely.

In Wellington, police are advising drivers to take care after a slip on State Highway 2 over the Rimutaka Hill, north of the city. The slip is affecting the south-bound lane on the Featherston side of the hill. Motorists are being urged to drive to the conditions.