22 Jun 2015

Helicopters aid stranded settlements

8:26 pm on 22 June 2015

Helicopters have been flying all day over flood-ravaged Whanganui and Taranaki while damage assessments continue in urban Whanganui.

Have you been affected by the flooding? Send your pictures or video to us by email iwitness@radionz.co.nz

Several parts of the North Island were hit hard by the weekend's devastating rainstorm, with widespread flooding causing evacuations, power cuts and road closures.

A state of local emergency remains in force in Whanganui and Taranaki but has been lifted in Rangitikei.

Authorities have estimated up to 400 people were left homeless by the flooding.

The Manawatu-Whanganui Regional Council said it knew of 325 registered evacuees, 250 of whom were from Whanganui. More people had left their homes but had not registered.

The regional council said flood-affected properties would need to be assessed before people could return home, with about 75 percent of these in urban Whanganui.

Lines company Powerco said good progress had been made getting electricity back on for properties in Taranaki and Whanganui. It said tonight that 380 customers in Whanganui and 40 in Taranaki remained without power, compared to about 650 properties in the former and 50 in the latter this morning.

The Government has pledged an initial $500,000 to help with the clean-up and is not ruling out more financial support if required.

An image of Whanganui taken by a resident.

An image of Whanganui taken by a resident shows the extent of the floodwaters. Photo: Diana Fowler

Sixteen adults and children were airlifted out of the remote Whanganui River settlement of Pipiriki today, where they were stranded because of big slips on the road to Raetihi.

Choppers from Ravensdown Aerowork flew in with food and medical supplies and airlifted out 16 people, including four pregnant women.

Another chopper, from Whanganui-based Hill Country Helicopters, carried a mother and her baby to a grandfather's farm, where there were supplies and power.

Pilot Nick Tallott told Checkpoint he had also been dropping off generators and basic food supplies.

"The Paraparas, Raetihi, Waitotara - just around the district generally, dropping supplies off and making sure people are OK."

'This will not be a quick fix'

The Whanganui District Council has said recovery from the flooding could take up to a month.

Whanganui Mayor Annette Main said city residents who left their homes when the Whanganui River spilled its banks should stay away for another night.

"There's contaminated water [that] has only just been cleared from the street. The houses have not been checked by the team."

She said most roads in the city have re-opened, except for some in Whanganui East that were still being cleared. The Whanganui Town Bridge remained closed.

Civil Defence Minister Nikki Kaye and Whanganui Mayor Annette Main by the still very swollen Whanganui River.

Civil Defence Minister Nikki Kaye and Whanganui Mayor Annette Main inspect the Whanganui River. Photo: RNZ / Carla Penman

Anzac Parade Whanganui 22 June

Police have asked that community-organised clean-up crews avoid cordoned-off areas including Anzac Parade (pictured). Photo: RNZ / Tom Furley

This morning, the mayor told Morning Report that the city would take time to recover.

"We are now in recovery mode and we have to work out how we'll manage into the future. This will not be a quick fix."

A welfare centre at Wanganui Girls College was expected to remain open tonight, while another in Guyton Street was expected to close at midnight and reopen in the morning.

The council said water pumps were operating in the flooded area around Anzac Parade.

Mayor: Waitotara is still viable

Staff from the South Taranaki District Council and the Taranaki District Health Board (DHB) today assessed flood-affected homes, roads and bridges in Waitotara.

The entire village was evacuated on Saturday after heavy rain swelled the Waitotara River to dangerous levels.

South Taranaki District Council engineering manager Brent Manning said many houses were surrounded by silt but a few were worse than that.

"There's probably only a few houses that have had water right through in terms of the flooring and so on - and probably only a few that will remain uninhabitable for some time."

Waitotara township

Floodwaters engulfed Waitotara over the weekend. Photo: SUPPLIED

South Taranaki Mayor Ross Dunlop said Waitotara remained viable despite suffering serious flooding for the second time in just over 10 years.

He said the people of Waitotara were a resilient bunch who had chosen to live there and the council would continue to support them to do that if that was what they want.

An information centre for residents has been set up at the Waitotara Hotel.

The New Plymouth District Council said it would take until the end of the week to open all of its roading network following the weekend's floods.

In Rangitikei, people living in Hunterville have been asked to boil water due to silt contamination and residents of Marton have been asked to conserve water.

The Horowhenua District Council said, from the eight households in Foxton evacuated on Saturday, all but three returned home.

A requirement for residents of Levin to boil water was lifted this morning.

Counting the cost

The Insurance Council said it was still too early to say what the cost of the damage from the flooding across the country would be, but it was likely to be many millions of dollars.

AA Insurance said it was dealing with a large number of claims related to the weekend's floods - and the most common claims were for water damage to homes and contents, and failed retaining walls.

Its customer relations manager, Amelia Macandrew, said the full extent of the damage would not be known until assessments had been completed

She said the company was keen to hear from anyone who could not return home due to damage or needed emergency repairs to keep their homes watertight and warm.